"Burger boredom" and "chicken fatigue" are making consumers look for something different, and pork is filling that gap.

"The overall image of pork in the consumer's mind is at its highest rating, which spells opportunity for producers and the industry," says Dallas Hockman, National Pork Producers Council's vice president for demand enhancement.

To highlight pork's difference, NPPC launched a new advertising campaign, "The Other" choice to mealtime boredom. The slogan plays off of pork's highly recognized theme, "Pork. The Other White Meat", which consumers ranked as the fifth most recognized contemporary advertising campaign in a Northwestern University study.

"Pork as a category has never been here before," Hockman continues. "We have never produced the quality of products or have the presence that we do today."

A growing trend that presents a tremendous opportunity for pork is consumer-ready products. Hockman notes that branding is exploding in the meat case, more so in pork than beef.

Historically, beef has been cut in the retailer's back-room; whereas chicken embraced consumer-ready packaging long ago. Pork's movement into consumer-ready products will continue to offer sales opportunities. For one thing, it will help keep pork stocked in the meat case.

Another trend is pork's popularity in foodservice. Dinner sausage is the fastest growing item, with ribs following a close second. This is aided by consumers' love of barbecue.

Fast-food chains are adding new pork items faster than beef or chicken. Two prominent examples are McDonald's adding the Johnsonville Brat and Hardees' Big Rib BBQ sandwich.

Keep in mind, the tenderloin is pork's flagship cut, but 65 percent of pork products are processed. This gives you even more chances to market new and different pork products. For instance, consumers continue to favor the ham sandwich over all others – a trend that has flourished over the years and doesn't show signs of slowing.

More pork developments worth noting:

Consumers' overall rating of pork continues to improve each year, with more consumers giving pork a "favorable" or "very favorable" rating. The newest NPPC data shows a 22 percent growth in that rating since 1994.

In light of record production of beef and poultry, pork demand will still increase 1 percent for the year. This is the fourth consecutive year that demand has increased.

Through September 2000, retail pork prices set records in seven consecutive months.

Exports are up by 8 percent in volume and 22 percent in value through August. They are projected to remain positive, ending the year above 1999's levels.

Pork's foodservice usage has grown by 17 percent since 1996, while the foodservice business itself only grew by 8 percent.

Retail pork featuring has increased 7 percent from a year ago.

NPPC's Label Impact Study showed retailers the value of putting recipe labels on meat packages. Sales grew an average of 6 percent. Retailers are now purchasing these labels to place on packages.

Ethnic cuisine is a growing trend that offers a multitude of opportunities. "As the U.S. ethnic market continues to grow, more opportunities arise. The challenge is producing new products and cutting them differently," says Hockman.

"The era of the magic pig is dead," he continues. Meaning, every producer raising the same kind of pork won't cut it. "The challenge is that there are more unique market opportunities that require us to do things differently in terms of raising, cutting and processing."

The pork industry's relationship with the retail sector is growing stronger. By supplying knowledge-based marketing programs, such as category management, it's easier to convince retailers of the opportunities pork offers their businesses.

"Our challenge is to make producers and the industry more money; to make retailers and food service more profitable, and pork is one of the solutions," concludes Hockman. Consumers are proving that they want pork, now it's up to you to grab hold of the opportunities.