Americans are buying more beef, pork, poultry, and lamb than ever as increased time at home during the pandemic sent meat grocery sales soaring by 20% (IRI) from 2019 to 2020.
The national analysis released today shows that three out of every four Americans agree meat belongs in healthy, balanced diets (up by nearly 20% since 2020), and 94% say they buy meat because it provides high-quality protein.
Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts commented, “Americans feel better than ever about choosing meat as part of healthy, balanced diets. With COVID-19 deepening demand for convenient, affordable food that tastes good and matches Americans’ values, meat fits the bill.”
Nearly all American households (98.4%) purchased meat in 2020 (IRI), and 43% of Americans now buy more meat than before the pandemic – primarily because they are preparing more meals at home.
The proportion of meals prepared at home peaked at 89% in April 2020 and remained at 84% in December (IRI), considerably above pre-pandemic levels and particularly impacting Millennials who were previously most likely to eat out.
The number of meat shoppers who purchased groceries online grew 40% in 2020, and the majority of online purchasers (59%) expect to continue purchasing about the same amount online in 2021, suggesting food shopping habits may have changed permanently.
Americans are also embracing new cooking methods (ownership of air fryers increased 24%) and turning to digital sources for recipe inspiration (YouTube use is up 50%) and promotions (consulting digital circulars for promotions increased 33%).
“Shoppers are cooking more at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their confidence in cooking and preparing meat has increased,” said Rick Stein, Vice President of Fresh Foods for FMI—The Food Industry Association. “Further analysis also shows convenient meal solutions are key and that food retailers have opportunities to provide more choices, along with more information and education on consumer priorities like nutrition and meal preparation – building up what we call consumers’ Meat IQ.”
The Power of Meat study was conducted by 210 Analytics on behalf of FMI—The Food Industry Association and the Meat Institute’s Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education and released during the American Meat Conference.
Top Findings of the Power of Meat 2021
The pandemic showed us just how popular meat and poultry still are.
With consumers cooking at home during the pandemic, meat department dollars increased 19.2% and volume 11.0%. This was due to more meat trips and greater spending per trip, while household penetration remained high, at 98.4% (IRI).
The pandemic brought more home-cooked meals with meat, with the shopper’s eye turning to convenience and variety. An important silver lining of the pandemic is greater meat preparation knowledge, which is likely to benefit the retail meat industry for years, if not generations, to come. But the initial cooking enthusiasm is making way for a quest for variety and convenience. Value-added meat/poultry sales grew based on greater household engagement and increased frequency of use.
More than three-quarters of shoppers changed something about their meat purchases during the pandemic.
Driven by lunch and dinner, 43% of shoppers bought more meat and poultry, greatly impacted by the work-from-home trend. Additionally, four in 10 shoppers bought differently, whether different types (42%), cuts (40%) or brands (45%).
Online meat shopping increased during the pandemic.
While supermarkets easily remained the biggest outlet for meat, 56% of shoppers purchased groceries online in 2020. Up from 19%, 31% of shoppers ordered meat online in 2020, and those that ordered meat did so more often.
Consumers look for meat sales/deals more often, but fewer sales were made on promotion during the pandemic.
More shoppers looked for promotions across stores (68%) or at their primary store (78%) as they shifted to buying in bigger quantities to freeze and use over time. The digital circular gained big, but in-store signage remained the most popular way to research meat specials.
Consumers’ perception of case-ready reaches a study high 81% favorability.
Shoppers have a positive impression of case-ready with 26% believing it is better than meat that is cut/packaged in-store and 55% believe it is equally good.
Better-for-you gains appeal as shoppers focus on health and nutrition.
Food has become more than just fuel and shoppers look for meat/poultry items they believe are better-for-me/their family. Many (71%) are putting effort into choosing nutritious and healthful meat and poultry choices. High interest in these areas expresses itself in vastly different protein choices, including purchasing claims-based meat, blends, alternatives and eating a little less of it.
Environmental sustainability is a rising platform driving dollars across categories, including meat/poultry.
Many (49%) consider sustainability factors when making meat purchases including better for the planet (34%), the worker/rancher (29%) and the animal (27%). Sixty percent of shoppers try to do their part for the environment and 43% believe that ranchers take steps to protect the planet. The 37% share of consumers who are unsure about environmental measures taken signal an important education opportunity for the meat retailing industry.
Animal welfare remained important during the pandemic and is a multi-faceted concept in the eyes of the consumer. Fifty-five percent of shoppers say having information about how and where the animal was raised and processed is important. Consumers’ definition of animal welfare involves many aspects of animal living, feeding and care conditions, including how animals are handled during slaughter (60%), access to outdoors (60%) and the amount of living space (58%). More people believe the meat they buy came from humanely-treated animals (44%) but 40% are simply unsure.
Plant-based meat alternatives grew 83.9% but remain just 0.6% of combined meat/alternative dollar sales.
At $475 million, refrigerated plant-based meat alternatives experienced robust growth. Just shy of 10% of households bought alternatives in 2020, but 40% did so only once. (IRI) Vegetable/meat blends, such as mushroom burgers, have greater appeal, and can be a bridge between continued meat consumption and providing benefits people look for in plant-forward eating.
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-For study information/questions, please contact Anne-Marie Roerink at email@example.com
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-For questions about FMI, please contact Rick Stein at email@example.com
About Meat Institute’s Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education
The Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education (Foundation) is a non-profit research, education and information foundation established to identify strategies that enable the meat and poultry industry to produce better, safer products and to operate more efficiently. The Foundation engages leaders from industry, academia and government to advance scientific understanding related to food safety, nutrition, the environment, animal welfare and worker safety, among other issues. The Foundation does not engage in policymaking but provides scientific evidence and context to governmental agencies as needed. The Foundation also provides resources to consumers to empower them with information to select and prepare safe and nutritious meat and poultry products for their families. For more information, visit: http://meatpoultryfoundation.org/pages/about.
As the food industry association, FMI works with and on behalf of the entire industry to advance a safer, healthier and more efficient consumer food supply chain. FMI brings together a wide range of members across the value chain — from retailers that sell to consumers, to producers that supply food and other products, as well as the wide variety of companies providing critical services — to amplify the collective work of the industry. For more information, visit: www.FMI.org.