Can the meat industry Change as consumers change

If you are involved in the food industry you hear a lot about time-poor people with busy lifestyles who have no time for cooking. Whether we like it or not spending time cooking is no longer a priority for many people who have a multitude of other activities vying for their time. It’s often all about how quickly a meal can be produced.

This trend won’t change, so the industry must adapt to offer quick meal solutions. People are increasingly thinking about a dish for a meal rather than the individual components. Meat and two veg is, more and more, a thing of the past.

Another trend that has emerged is what marketers have christened ‘flexitarianism’. It’s a desire to mix vegetarian meals with those involving meat throughout the week. These changing tastes and food choices are all having an impact on meat sales.

A couple of years ago I purchased my own sous vide cooker, and goodness has it highlighted to me the potential that sous vide technology can bring to the industry. It does not just help people get an easy meal on the table quickly, it is a massive opportunity to add value. People who are short on time are often quite happy to buy time-saving gadgets that allow them to prepare consistently good meals easily. Sous vide delivers this.

When it comes to health, we often miss the boat when it comes to marketing our meat and we get too obsessed about selling to the younger generation.

So what other things influence the shopper? We would all love it if people were really concerned about sustainability but it’s not really a major influence. People buy with their eyes and I think we are long overdue for a rethink in the meat sector about how the meat aisle looks in a supermarket. Has it really changed much in the last 20 years? Not compared to many other aisles. Fruit and veg presentation is almost becoming an art form, is it any wonder more people are getting excited about what vegetables they are eating.

What of health issues, I think we have undersold ourselves in the meat sector. The truth is that meat is leaner and healthier now than it has ever been; we have just failed to really shout about it and push for it to be accepted as part of a healthy balanced diet rather than a sinful thing we eat which we then have to compensate for.

When it comes to health, we often miss the boat when it comes to marketing our meat and we often get too obsessed as an industry about selling to the younger generation. Minced meat is, in fact, one of the best, most efficient ways an older person can take-in the nutrition they need at a price they can easily afford. I think the gourmet burger trend has been great and hats off to the industry for adding value in this way, but a lot of the marketing is targeted again at the younger generation, let’s not forget the opportunity and the income of the over 50’s

I think we must accept that roasts are in long term decline, but let’s not give them up as a completely lost cause. Let’s just make sure that when people do buy a roast it is easy to cook and gives a great result. I stand to be corrected, but I notice whole chickens being sold in easy to cook bags, that do not make a mess in the oven, and pretty much deliver perfect results every time. I hope that technology is not too far behind for beef lamb and pork.

We’d love to hear your views on what we, as an industry, could be doing differently to adapt to the changing market. If you’ve seen something working well, get in touch to let us know.

About the author

Nick Allen is CEO of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) which is the leading trade association in the meat and meat product industry.