Economy changes meat shopping habits

by Editor
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The fourth edition of the Power of Meat, a joint study by the American Meat Institute and the Food Marketing Institute, finds that the recession is being felt throughout the grocery store, and especially in the meat department. Economic woes are affecting where people shop for meat as well as the kind of cut, brand and quantity purchased.

The report, which details the findings of a national online poll of 1,059 consumers conducted in November 2008, was released at the 2009 Annual Meat Conference. The American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) published this consumer research.

While shoppers are eating out less and cooking more, they are also trading down, substituting and eliminating, resulting in the overall spending amount remaining roughly the same, at $91 per week. While grocery expenses may be relatively unchanged, the way shoppers are spending most certainly is not. The study found that at least half are using coupons whenever possible, buying only what they need and switching from national brands to store brands. Other popular measures include resisting luxury foods and buying items on sale.

When it comes to the meat case, more than half of respondents (51%) have also changed their purchasing habits. Popular ways to save money in the meat department include greater preparation before going to the store and a longer selection process when in the store. No less than 71% of shoppers say they read the grocery flyers looking for meat and poultry deals more often and more carefully than a year ago. 96 stock up on meat when it is on sale, and 67% purchase less expensive cuts either frequently or every time they shop. Others cook more casseroles or pasta dishes to make the quantity go a little further or simply buy and cook meat and poultry less often.

A number of consumers are also switching where they shop for meat in an effort to save money. While full-service supermarkets are still the most popular at 66% of the meat purchases, this is down from previous years. More shoppers are now going to warehouse club stores, especially shoppers with higher incomes.

Supermarkets continue to have high retention rates in the meat department, with 88% of supermarket patrons also purchasing their meat and poultry there. Meat sales promotions greatly influence the type of meat purchased as well as the quantity. 58% of shoppers purchase meat in large quantities to portion up, freeze and use over time.

The study found that saving measures differ vastly by demographic, with younger shoppers more likely to stock up on meat specials and buy cheaper cuts, bigger households more likely to engage in all meat-saving behaviours, especially stocking up or trading down; and lower-income households less likely to stock up on meat sales and more likely to trade down.

Despite the economic difficulties, meat continues to be a staple at American dinner tables. According to the study, the average family has five dinners at home per week, with an average of 3.9 of these meals including a meat item, down from 4.2 last year. Chicken and beef are the top meat choices.

When surveyed, 18% of shoppers stated that they have purchased organic and/or natural meats in the past three months.

Natural and organic chicken by far is the most frequently purchased item, followed by beef and ground meat.

According to respondents, better quality and variety would prompt shoppers to increase their meat purchases at their primary store.