Case-Ready Meat Quality Earns Consumer Trust

product-shot-2016Shoppers trust the quality of case-ready meats such as lamb, veal, beef and pork according to The Power of Meat research study conducted in 2016 jointly by the Food Market Institute and the North American Meat Institute. An impressive 83 percent of consumers believe the quality is as good or better than meat cut and packaged in the store, the research shows.

The fact-finding fieldwork reveals an “ever-increasing favorability of case-ready quality.” There is “wide spread” awareness of the case-ready concept, which refers to protein product being cut and packaged before it enters the store. Over a nine-year period that the research has measured the quality perception of case-ready meat, there has been a continued year-by-year improvement in favorability. In 2008, 38 percent of shoppers believed case-ready was not as good. This opinion has plummeted to just 17 percent in 2016, Currently, the share of consumers who believe case-ready is actually better climbed to a study high of 23 percent—for a combined 83 percent who believe case-ready is either equally as good or better than store-cut and packaged meats.

Supermarkets nationwide are increasing their reliance on case-ready meats for a number of reasons. There is an increasing decline in the availability of professional butchers, and meat packers can provide precise cuts more cost-effectively. Freshness, quality and safe handling are also regarded as advantages of case-ready packaging. Some packers, like Catelli Brothers—who specialize in veal and lamb, but also provide specialty meat products—cut to their customers’ exact specifications and even pre-price the items. These types of efficiencies keep the cost of meat case products at competitive levels.

Another factor improving the use and perception of case-ready is the inclusion of useful educational messaging on the packages. Previous consumer research has shown how consumers increasing rely on product information and recipes in making their protein purchases. The Power of Meat 2016 study probed a wide mix of potential information to test shopper interest among Millennials, GenXers, Boomers and those 65+.

Time/temperature instructions, not surprisingly, is of most interest to shoppers. Among Boomers, it was 61 percent, and 57 percent among seniors. Only 42 percent of Millennials and 49 percent of GenXers report reliance on time and temperature information.

American consumers also are interested in recipes (32 percent) and storage tips (31 percent). The 65+ group indicated the least reliance on recipes (27 percent), while 42 percent of Millennials expressed high interest. Boomers and GenXers ranked recipe interest at 35 and 41 percent, respectively. All groups seemed to share interest in storage instructions: Millennials, 37 percent and GenXers, 33 percent. Both Boomers and seniors showed a 40 percent reliance on storage tips. Other product information that shoppers depend on includes thawing instructions, specific nutrition callouts and leftover ideas.

According to the study, “On-pack messaging drawing higher interest among Millennials includes recipes, suggestions for side dishes, wine and dessert, a photo of the finished dish serving suggestion, and a connection to digital resources, such as links or QR codes.”

The most recent The Power of Meat research also shows considerable consumer interest in packaging innovation. They value ease-of-use and cleanliness in meat packaging. “In ongoing tracking of a number of packaging innovations, leak-proof packaging continues to have great consumer potential in terms of prompting increased purchases (62 percent) and the highest share of current users, at 13 percent,” according to the report. Reusable and freezer-ready packaging also has high consumer interest. Shoppers have shown repeatedly that they seek out at the meat case packaging innovation solutions that support cleanliness, convenience and consumer-driven solutions for freezing, storage and portioning.

The meat case, in fact, serves as a shopper magnet in U.S. supermarkets. Seventy percent of purchases at full-service counters in supermarkets come from the meat case. “In fact,” the study reports, “97 percent of shoppers use the (meat) case for at least some purchases.” Shoppers who purchase 100 percent of their protein from the meat case rose from 24 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2016. “For most shoppers,” the study states, “the meat case is the destination for routine purchases, whereas the full-service counter is one for…specialty cuts, asking questions, etc.”