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How Inflation is Changing Shopper Behaviour in the Meat Aisle

Danny Bowles, Insight and Planning Specialist, International Markets      

In the face of rising prices, shoppers have to find ways to make their money stretch further. This is impacting how they shop, something we can clearly see in the Q2 2022 report from Bord Bia’s Meat Shopper Insight tracker

Taking Back Control

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Shoppers are relying more on their meal plans and shopping lists to take control of their grocery spend – Image by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Consumers are becoming more and more concerned with their ability to make ends meet. In Ireland, almost half of adults say they have less disposable income compared to last year (B&A, 2022). In response, consumers are looking for all sorts of ways to control their spending. When it comes to the meat aisle, this has meant they have reduced the repertoire of proteins they consider before shopping. This time last year shoppers were coming into store considering a wide range of proteins, ready to be convinced by what was in store, ready to pay for something premium if it caught their eye. In Q2 this year there is a whole lot more meal planning and less impulse. We see a reduction in consideration for beef, lamb, pork and meat substitutes across the 7 markets of the study. Consideration of chicken has remained stable. Chicken offers flexibility, filling in as the protein for a number of meals in the week’s meal plan. In response to this need for control, other protein categories need to highlight their own flexibility by providing meal inspiration that allows shoppers to stretch their purchased protein further.  

It is important to keep in mind that shoppers will look to save money whenever they can; research from the US indicates that the first thing consumers seek to save money on are trips to restaurants (Bhattarai, 2022; Reinecke, 2022). Like they did during the COVID-19 lockdowns (Bord Bia, 2020), consumers will still seek to treat themselves where they can afford it, and they may look to the butcher or supermarket to purchase an at-home treat instead of going out for it. Despite looking to control spending, shoppers will still look to treat themselves, but the benefit they get from that treat needs to be compellingly communicated.   

Shoppers are relying on more affordable formats

While consideration is declining for beef, among those that consider beef, purchase levels remain stable. We note that the vast majority across Europe, over 80% in each of the seven markets, believe beef tastes great and the majority believe beef is worth paying more for. So there is still an overwhelming desire to buy beef, matched with the desire to save where possible. That’s why we see consumers shifting from steak cuts to mince and burgers. These formats are considered more flexible and affordable, while still delivering the taste shoppers love. Within these more affordable formats, though, there is room for more premium options: 40% of beef shoppers across the 7 markets are interested in seeing more grass-fed mince options on-shelf. This suggests plenty of space for affordable innovations: new formats, new flavours, new cuts to appear on shelf. In a space when consumers have a heightened awareness of what they’re spending compared to what they used to, innovation, i.e. providing new products to choose form, is a good way to counteract the changing behaviour, and a way to get shoppers more engaged in the meat aisle (The Grocer, 2022). These new formats should be paired with meal suggestions to highlight their flexibility.

Beware the longer-term behavioural changes

While the change in behaviours we are seeing are a clear response to recent increases in prices, we need to beware of potential longer-term changes, as we are hearing pronouncements from experts that the worst is yet to come regarding inflation (IGD, 2022). In this Q2 shopper insight report we see more shoppers planning to reduce the amount of beef they eat in the next 3 years, largely driven by concern over price. The fear is that consumers use this concern over expensiveness to drop out of the category altogether, with concerns over the environmental and welfare impact of beef still at the back of their minds. So while consumers are generally less concerned with quality credentials right now, there is still a need to communicate the quality benefits of beef, especially Irish beef, to tap into consumer aspiration for more premium beef in the medium-term. Numerous case studies from previous economic downturns show that brands that continue to invest in long-term brand communications. Taste and our grass-based system have to be core in that messaging. Both remain strong purchase drivers, and we know Irish beef has always performed very well in taste tests.

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Shoppers still love the taste of beef. Remind them of that, through communications or in-store tastings, when they’re shopping - Image by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

For more information, please go to www.bordbia.ie/industry/insights/shopper-insights/ or contact thethinkinghouse@bordbia.ie. The next report will be available in October on Q3. For those interested we can also share topline findings for each of the seven markets (Ireland, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Sweden and Belgium) each month to keep a closer eye on market trends.

 

References

Bhattarai, A. 2022. Americans are starting to pull back on travel and restaurants (June 18 2022). The Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/06/18/consumer-spending-slowing-economy/

Bord Bia. 2020. Future Proofing Toolkits. https://www.bordbia.ie/industry/covid-19/future-proofing/

Bord Bia. 2022. Meat Shopper Insight Tracker. www.bordbia.ie/industry/insights/shopper-insights/

B&A. 2022. Sign of the Times 2022. banda.ie/ba-sign-of-the-times-sott-2022/

Canvas8. 2022. Meat-lovers seek ways to make restaurant meals at home (18 April 2022).

IGD. 2022. Tesco warns on food inflation: “the worst is yet to come” (7 Feb 22). https://retailanalysis.igd.com/markets/united-kingdom/news/news-article/t/tesco-warns-on-food-inflation-the-worst-is-yet-to-come/i/29370?utm_campaign=2090457_220209.RA.NL.HYBRID.WED&utm_medium=dmemail&utm_source=IGD%20Services%20Limited&dm_i=2Z8W,18T09,7QGNZX,4U26G,1

Reinicke, C. 2022. Inflation remained near a 40-year high in April. Here’s where consumers plan to cut spending (11 May 2022). www.cnbc.com/2022/05/11/where-consumers-plan-to-cut-spending-as-high-inflation-persists.html

The Grocer. 2022. How can suppliers navigate incoming inflation? (14 Feb 2022). www.thegrocer.co.uk/promotional-features/how-can-suppliers-navigate-incoming-inflation/664442.article