Q What is the consumer's perception of pork quality? A Quality means different things to different consumers according to their demographics, preparation methods and lifestyles. But, if we listen to consumers, we will hear: "All I want is a product that I can serve to my family time and again with the same results."
They want to know: "Why is one pork chop excellent and the other just so-so? Why are some chops pink and others not? Why is there moisture in the tray and other times it's dry?"

There is too much variation in the meat case. If we could deliver a consistent pork product the consumer wouldn't have to be confused. All they want is something that's nutritious, easy to prepare, affordable and available when they want it.

Q What do consumers want from pork? A They don't want a surprise every time they open up a package. They don't want something that is difficult to prepare, and they don't want to guess which cut it is. They don't want to hear their family comment on how awful the pork was.

They want a product that exceeds their expectations, something that is fun, something they can serve to company, something that wows their family. But the most important factor is taste.

Q Are consumers willing to pay for consistent, high-quality pork products, or do they just expect it? A I would like to believe if we add value to pork, consumers would be willing to pay more for it. There are models clearly demonstrating that you can create real or perceived value and be awarded for it. Two examples would be Certified Angus Beef and Certified Hereford Beef. They have done an excellent job creating value-added beef programs, at the same time generating more profit for the entire food chain.

Q What information can be added to a product label to entice consumers? A There is no one answer; different demographics have different perspectives.

If you look at the industry, you'll find different messages: Extra Tender, Always Tender Always Fresh, 97 percent Fat Free, American Heart Association seal of approval, USDA verified, Lean Generation, Pork the Other White Meat, on and on.

Q What can producers do to better meet consumers' demands? A The simplest answer is when developing a model for the food chain make sure the consumer is at the beginning of your business plan, not at the end. Make sure you have a strong feedback scenario in your model to ensure that your program is communicated with both ends of the food chain.

Q Can producers really connect through to retail? A It is critical that the entire food chain connects. Without producers producing the right pig, without the packers and processors producing the right products, and without the retailers and foodservice industries serving up the best products, this industry will struggle to move forward.

As we come out of this long market correction we will see a different industry. The question is what will it look like? Will it mirror poultry? Or will we create a totally new industry – part vertically integrated, part producer aligned? Will packers continue to align with the retail industry? This has begun in some areas but the verdict is still out.

The retail industry will continue to consolidate. Wal-Mart continues to expand, including different models like its new "small mart" or neighborhood stores. Kroger, Safeway and Albertson continue to gobble up others.

I expect case-ready pork to move to the next level. We have seen some great successes that provide a positive picture for future growth. But it all comes at a price.
If someone is going to put a name on the package, the product has to be perfect.

Whose name will be on the "new" case-ready packages? Will it be national brands or in-house brands? What role can the producer play in this?

It adds up to partnerships: alignment between producer and packer, with partnership links to the end user.

We could learn a lot from some of the marketing laws:

  • The Law of the Category: "If you can't be the first in a category, set up a new category you can be first in."
  • The Law of the Mind: "It's better to be first in the mind than to be first in the marketplace."
  • The Law of Focus "The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect's mind."