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Beef remains dominant player in US meat cases

Beef Central, 05/01/2012

Beef remains the most dominant protein available in retail meat cabinets in the United States, according to an industry evaluation of meat case product trends.

Every three years the US Beef Checkoff Program, the National Pork Board and the Sealed Air’s Cryovac Food Packaging Unit conduct a comprehensive study of how meat is merchandised in US retail outlets.

The most recent results draw from a 2010 analysis in which surveyors audited 133 supermarkets and stores in 51 metropolitan markets across 31 states.

Information collected included the number of packages for each major protein, the type and weight of each cut, and the presence of information such as nutritional content and cooking instructions. Researchers also noted whether the product was store wrapped or had been shipped into the store pre-wrapped (case ready).

The researchers found that beef remained the biggest player in the meat case, with a typical store featuring 61 unique beef products, with 400 packages and more than 670 pounds of beef displayed.

The trends were stable compared with three years earlier, when researchers identified an average of 62 unique beef products, 401 packages and 664 pounds of beef displayed.

The study also found that beef’s share of the fresh meat case has remained stable at 42pc since 2002.

29pc of whole muscle cuts and 81pc of ground beef packages contained nutritional information, and 39pc of all packages including some type of cooking instruction, such as a recipe.

The most significant changes identified by the study were the increases in the percentage of retailer-branded beef, and in the use of case-ready product.

The survey found that while all retailers were increasingly putting their own brand name on all proteins in the meat case, the trend was especially pronounced for beef. The percentage of supplier branded product in US retail cabinets has decreased from 24pc to 14pc since 2004, according to the study, while the percentage of retailer-branded beef has increased from 12pc to 46pc over the same period.

Overall, 66pc of all protein were stocked in case-ready packaging, an increase from 49pc in 2002.

Since the National Meat Case Study was initiated in 2002, the growing popularity of ground beef has been demonstrated by the ever increasing amount of product in the meat case. Changes in merchandising trends are also evident. Over time, the audit has shown a decline in the percent of supermarkets that identify the sources of the ground beef as ground chuck, ground round or ground sirloin; 95 percent of ground beef packages now contain a lean designation.

“It can be surmised that merchandising practice trends in the meat case will accelerate,” the latest study concluded.

“Meat departments have discovered the importance to their store of having their own brand in the case, and providing the venue for a unique set of beef benefits to the consumer.”

Products with a natural claim grew 10pc points from 2004 to 2010.

The next national meat case evaluation is due in 2013.

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