Market researcher says the time is right for meat products with a health angle
DENVER: Market researcher, Laurie Demeritt, told attendees of the National Bison Association Convention that this was an excellent time for alternative meats with a “wellness factor” in them to expand their markets.
“Thanks to the popularity of low carbohydrate diets meat is the hot issue right now,” she said.
Demeritt is the president of the Hartman Group in Seattle. This is a market research company that specializes in natural, organic and what she described as “wellness” foods.
She said her research had found that about five percent of the population was now on a strict low-carbohydrate diet but about 65% of consumers said they were now cutting back on carbohydrate consumption.
“Most consumers are not willing to give up all carbohydrates but they are concerned about their weight. Losing weight today has the same urgency about it that quitting smoking had two decades ago.”
She said that she did not consider the shift to low-carbohydrates to be a fad but rather a long-term trend that would continue to benefit meat producers. She said she had found no increase in vegetarianism despite its seeming popularity among media personalities.
“One of the things you need to understand about people is that they lie about what they eat. People don’t actually eat the way they say they do. For example, many vegetarians cheat and eat meat on the weekend.
“A lot of young people say they are vegetarians because they think it sounds cool but they really aren’t. We are not finding any significant increase in true vegetarianism in any of our surveys.”
She said to get a true picture of food consumption required that you study the consumer as she put it “in the wild.”
“We watch what they eat. Not listen to what they say they eat.”
She said that organic foods were now entering their second wave of products which were mostly meats. The first wave was produce and dairy and the third wave yet to come will be organic breads.
WELLNESS FOODS ARE THE NEW TREND
She said the hottest new food trend is consumers realizing that food and their health are interrelated. She described this group as the “wellness consumer.”
She said this was not a small group but was virtually everyone.
She said the emphasis on wellness stemmed from the increasing frustration with the health care system and personal or family health problems due to our aging population.
“Demographics no longer define the organic or natural food consumer. We are finding that consumers with an income of $40,000 or less are the most loyal. They see their food as preventative medicine and cheaper than a hospital stay.
“During the most recent recession, sales of organic foods actually went up. Food is now a major part of a whole lifestyle devoted to what we call wellness.”
She said approximately 13% of American consumers were core wellness consumers. In beef, this would equate to a potential market of around $9 billion in sales a year. “Authenticity is very important to these people. They want to know who raised it, where and how. They really like the idea of supporting small farms and local food production.
“To these core consumers the story behind the food is as important as the food. If you can show a direct, personal health benefit in the food you are selling, they will really respond to it.”
However, she said these consumers don’t like being preached to and do not trust industry nutrition experts.
“The two most credible figures to women are Oprah and Dr. Phil.”
Consumers two biggest concerns in meat are antibiotics and artificial hormones.
“Parents are very concerned with the early sexual development they see in their daughters and are blaming this on artificial hormones in the meat.”
She said that women typically start buying wellness foods for their children and only later start eating it themselves.
Other concerns are nitrites and other artificial ingredients in the meat. She said consumers couldn’t articulate why they didn’t want nitrites but they don’t want them.
“Consumers also like the idea of small farms, free range or grassfed and minimal processing.”
Demeritt said consumers wanted meat with a stronger flavor and more variety than what was currently available. They want the meat to have health benefits but also want it to be guaranteed tender.
“We found there is a tremendous amount of loyalty among these consumers toward anyone who can give them what they want.
“They are most interested in specialized, custom-designed food products.”
The biggest drawback to increased meat sales was the cooking time required for some products.
Ironically while a sense of a lack of time was the major common factor in all consumers surveyed, consumers spent twice as much time shopping at Whole Foods than when shopping at Safeway.
“Buying wellness food is seen as an educational, fun experience. People actually take the time to read all the labels.”
© by The Stockman Grass Farmer
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