Strong meat consumption, evolving consumer trends in latest US Power of Meat report

Beef Central, 20/03/2024

THE number of Americans who describe themselves as meat eaters (80pc) and the number of households that purchase meat (98pc) remain steady from last year, while the number seeking to decrease meat consumption has declined by 20pc since 2020, according to an important annual consumer survey released yesterday.

The 19th annual US Power of Meat report was produced by the American Meat Institute and the US Food Industry Association.

The 2024 report shows overall US household penetration for meat averages 97pc for all incomes, ethnicities, household sizes and ages.

Generation X (the smallest of the generations, population-wise) accounts for the greatest proportion of sales (32pc), while Boomers buy meat most frequently (53 times per year), and Millennials spend the most money per meat purchase (almost $17).

Many of the findings in the US Power of Meat report have similar resonance in the Australian consumer market.

Economic conditions continue to impact Americans’ shopping and meal choices, with 43pc of Americans cutting back on restaurant meals this year. Of meat eaters who are buying restaurant meals less often, 75pc said they tried to recreate restaurant-type meals at home.

At the supermarket, 73pc of Americans are making one or more changes to meat purchases to save money – with the most common strategy being to adjust the quantity of meat purchased.

Among meat purchasers changing quantities to save money, 30% buy smaller packages to save money immediately, and 42pc buy larger bulk packs to save money over time.

On the other hand, nine of ten 10 shoppers said they would spend extra on occasion, with holidays, special celebrations and entertaining the top reasons.

The US Food Industry Association’s vice president of fresh foods, Rick Stein, said as price conscious US shoppers looked for ways to continue enjoying their favorite proteins, they were cooking more at home and including meat in everything from new recipes found online to their favorite comfort meals and holiday feasts.

“With shoppers including meat in nearly 87pc of home-cooked meals every week and looking to meat to make occasions special, the opportunities to provide great choice, taste, and value continue to grow,” he said.

American Meat Institute president Julie Anna Potts said, “When shoppers hear ‘protein,’ they think ‘meat,’ and the Meat Institute is actively working to maintain and grow Americans’ confidence about meat’s role in healthy, balanced diets.”

“Our Protein PACT initiative drives progress and provides transparent information about how meat contributes to the health of people, animals, and the planet – which 83pc of consumers are looking for when they make meat purchases,” she said.


Ten key take-homes from the 2024 Power of Meat report:

Convenience is important but taking a backseat to price as consumers balance their spending.

Meat and poultry are part of 87pc of home-prepared meals that reflect a mix of scratch-cooked and semi-and fully-prepared items. While most consumers spend less than 30 minutes preparing dinner, they purchased value-added that is typically sold at a price premium less often. This resulted in value-added meat and poultry sales being down across most proteins in 2023 for the first time in years.

Inflationary pressure felt by consumers led to a subdued year for the meat department.

With US$99 billion in domestic US meat sales, 98.2pc household penetration and 48 purchases per year, meat is the biggest revenue generator among supermarket fresh food departments. However, dollar sales were flat (+0.1pc) and weight sales (-1pc)  decreased year-on-year.

A clear value proposition can help attract the 30pc of shoppers who account for 66pc of dollar sales

Traditional grocery’s share of meat sales dropped from 42.8pc in 2019 to 39.7pc in 2023 – a shift of several billion dollars. Driven by strong millennial engagement, supercentres (large discount department stores, similar to Australia’s Costco) have gained 2.2 share points since 2019. The shares for club stores and e-commerce grew over the past five years but plateaued in 2023.

Shoppers bought meat less frequently and bought less per purchase — the root causes of the volume pressure.

The impact of price combined with longer-term demographic shifts point to an opportunity to re-align assortment, marketing and merchandising with changing purchase patterns. With shopper case-ready acceptance reaching a record high, consider pack size variety, freezer-ready packaging, secondary displays and cross-merchandising to optimise trips and units per trip.

Shopping for meat/poultry is a balancing act between money, time, nutrition, taste and meal occasion.

US retail meat department prices rose 2.1pc in 2023, below the rate of total food and beverage inflation (+5.9pc). Yet, the sustained impact of several years of inflation caused shoppers to buy what is on sales and adapt what amount (54pc), species (45pc), cut (43pc) and brand (40pc) of meat and poultry they purchased.

91pc of consumers can be persuaded to spend a little more on meat and poultry.

Holidays, special occasions and entertaining are the top reasons to spend a little more — emphasising the need to optimise sales during primary and secondary holidays while recognising traditions are changing. A cut or kind of meat/poultry consumers deem healthier, a preferred pack size or brand, and convenience can also prompt them to splurge a little.

Seven in ten consumers believe meat is an overall healthy choice that provides fuel and essential nutrients.

While the majority of consumers believe meat and poultry belong in the diet, they are interested in portion size variety and suggestions for nutritious choices without sacrificing taste or paying more. Compared to 2008, “protein” is a more desirable package callout while fewer consumers focus on fat, sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat when buying meat/poultry.

A thoughtful approach to meat purchases drives interest in transparency.

Consumers look to brands and grocery stores to provide insight into the who, what, how and where of the meat/poultry they purchase. More than one-third of consumers look for better-for… options addressing the planet (38pc), people (36pc) and animal welfare (34pc). Up from 43pc in 2020, 55pc of US consumers feel good about animal welfare practices in the US.

Meal inspiration sources vary widely, with digital resources and technology making rapid inroads.

Gen Z draws meal inspiration from TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, whereas Boomers rely on routine meals, family/friends and recipe websites. This shows the importance of providing meal inspiration across platforms and closing the gap between inspiration and purchase.

Price and promotions have a big impact in today’s marketplace, but taste drives the all-important second purchase.

Help shoppers create meals they want to make again: 92pc of shoppers agree the meat can be a great price, but if it did not taste good, they will not buy it again. Emphasise quality and taste and provide relevant tips by preferred cooking appliances. Air fryers are now the number three appliance in preparing meat and poultry, behind the stove and oven.


  • Click here to see a summary of key statistics from the report








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