Today’s economic hardships are affecting where people shop for meat as well as the kind of cut, brand and quantity purchased. 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 in the meat department.

It probably comes as no surprise- shoppers are eating out less and cooking more. The economic hardship that has engulfed the worlds economies also leads consumers to trade down by substituting and eliminating. Promotions and quantity buying at bargain prices are increasing trends to watch in meat buying.

The way shoppers are spending is changing significantly. At least half of all food shoppers are using coupons and buying only what they need. They are also switching from national brands to store brands. Other trends include resisting luxury foods and buying items on sale.

Popular ways consumers attempt to save money in the meat department include pre-shopping study and planning. Also, once in the store, shoppers spend more time in the selection process. Seventy-one percent of shoppers read the grocery flyers looking for meat and poultry bargains more carefully than a year ago. Other strategies include stocking up on meat when it is on sale, and purchasing less expensive cuts. Casseroles or pasta dishes to extend the meat are increasingly used.

Consumers are also switching where they shop for meat in an effort to save money. Full-service supermarkets are still the most popular at 66 percent of the meat purchases although this is down from previous years. More shoppers are now shopping at warehouse club stores.

Meat sales promotions greatly influence the type of meat purchased as well as the quantity as consumers portion up, freeze and use over time. They are also less brand-sensitive, both for fresh and processed meat, in their quest to save money.

The report found that younger shoppers are more likely to stock up on meat specials and buy cheaper cuts, bigger households more likely to engage in all meat-saving behaviors, especially stocking up or trading down; and lower-income households less likely to stock up on meat sales and more likely to trade down.

The growth of case-ready (prepackaged) meat sales continues with a median of 85 percent of total packages bought form the self-service meat case area. In fact, 30 percent purchase exclusively from the meat case without ever using the assistance of the full-service counter. Those who do tend to be looking for something special, such as a different quantity or cut or a meat to match a special occasion.

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.

This year’s study found that despite economic difficulties, health and well-being are still highly valued and food plays a major role. Almost two-thirds of shoppers put some effort into eating healthy, but the rate of success is much lower. Despite best intentions to eat better, 51 percent say they succeed in doing so less than half the time. As part of shoppers’ healthy-eating strategies, they are most likely to cut back on portion sizes or second helpings, followed by eating fish or seafood more regularly.

When surveyed, 18 percent of shoppers stated that they have purchased organic and/or natural meats in the past three months, down just one percentage point from last year. Natural and organic chicken by far is the most frequently purchased item, followed by beef and ground meat. The positive long-term health effects and nutritional value are the top two reasons cited by shoppers for purchasing organic meat and poultry.

Source: AMI