What motivates consumers to buy pork?

That’s what the National Pork Board wanted to find out in its Point of  Decision 2 research.

“Point of Decision studies help us get into consumers’ minds so we can help retailers educate and motivate consumers regarding their decisions at the meatcase,” says Karen Boillot, NPB retail marketing director.

In the study’s first phase, a researcher would ask questions and observe a shopper during a typical visit to the grocery store. Researchers completed 30 shopping trips with consumers in Chicago, Boston and Denver in traditional grocery stores that have self-service and full-service meatcases.

So, let’s look at some of the POD2 study results. First, here are some specifics about consumers’ meat-purchasing habits.

  • Consumers consider several factors when choosing meat products. Most important is that meat is part of most every major meal — at least three to seven days a week. When consumers are choosing meat, they rely on convenience and familiarity of the product. For instance, many consumers always have ground beef and chicken on hand, but find that pork and fish are less important to have in the freezer.
  • Consumers don’t typically pre-plan purchases of individual meat items.
  • While shopping, 60 percent of consumers use some form of a list. This functions more as a guide or reminder, especially when it comes to specific brands or cuts. Meat is usually listed as “meat” on the list, instead of something specific like pork chops.
  • Most shoppers don’t generate their list from specific recipes or meals. Instead, they rely on staple items, flyer specials and direct-mail pieces that list specials.

When it comes to consumers’ overall shopping patterns in the store, here’s what researchers found.

  • Consumers shop the perimeter of the store, then move on to specific center aisles as needed.
  • Produce is often the first item purchased, mainly due to the way most stores are set up. Often, produce is the first section consumers go to once they grab a shopping cart.
  • Meat is usually among the last items purchased, due to temperature and freshness issues, as well as location of the meatcase.
  • Consumers shop for meat (especially fish) and produce more often during the week than other groceries.
  • Sale items and specials could alter a shopper’s pre-planned purchase decisions.
  • "Doubling back” occurs because consumers forgot something rather than impulse or inspiration.

  Advertising is another factor that influences consumers’ meat purchases. About 23 percent of consumers said that advertising influenced their meat-purchase decisions by “a lot,” 56 percent; “somewhat,” 17 percent; “just a little,” 10 percent; “not at all” 17 percent.

Most shoppers purposely bought or subscribed to newspapers that delivered local advertising flyers, and described these as “very important.” Flyers determine which stores consumers shop on a weekly basis.

“This research is important to producers because it gets us (NPB) closer to understanding why people buy pork and what they’re looking for when they go to the meat case,” says Boillot. “Understanding the consumer is the only way we can do a better job of getting the right mix of product into the meatcase.”

The research also revealed that a driving factor in what ends up in the consumer’s shopping cart still has to do with quality. Researchers found that consumers:

  • Inspect packages for quality, freshness and portion sizes.
  • Browse through packages, even with familiar cuts.
  • Are motivated by cost and quality, even enough to motivate them to shop at multiple stores.
  • Don’t use side items to determine meat purchases.
  • Seek out high-quality cuts.
  • Want to see meat through the package.
  • Often change a predetermined purchase when they discover a store special, especially involving certain cuts. However, it rarely changes their minds between meat types (beef, pork, chicken.)
  • Strongly prefer fresh meat over frozen. Consumers would rather choose and freeze their own cuts.

“It’s necessary for us to hear from consumers about the process they go through to buy our product,” says Boillot. “We know they’re interested in a product’s appearance, it’s not just a price game. There’s still a quality issue worth noting for producers; and that means there’s opportunity for pork.”