Beef trends provide unique marketing opportunities
Denver, Colo. – National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Senior Vice President of Marketing Kim Essex spoke on trends and trendsetters in the beef industry during the Cattlemen’s College, held in conjunction with the NCBA Annual Convention and Trade Show Feb. 2 in Denver, Colo.
Essex directs a number of NCBA programs, including the “BEEF, It’s What’s for Dinner” campaign. She also helped revamp the brand to highlight beef as an excellent source of lean protein, and she works with a number of retail and food service individuals who are in direct contact with beef consumers.
“It’s about the consumers. They tell us what the trends are by putting dollars on the table, and they will pay more if they see value in a trend,” explained Essex, adding that dollars are why trends are important to pay attention to.
“Trends gain momentum when they are in line with consumer expectations. The consumer will pay more for products that deliver on their expectations,” noted Essex.
She highlighted six trends and trendsetters currently gaining momentum and garnering a share of the consumer’s dollar, even during what many still deem challenging economic times.
“Number one is human touch. ‘The more fragmented our identities and fractured our days, the more we yearn to connect,’” said Essex, quoting Faith Popcorn.
“Consumers with an increased interest in where their food comes from is one symptom of this. They like to have social experiences at retail locations and dialog with corporate around shared values,” explained Essex
She highlighted Wolfgang Puck and Jack Daniels Whiskey as two examples that have excelled in this area.
“Wolfgang has turned his experience into a true brand, and he’s massive. He has cookware, retail products and restaurants, and he still tries to find human connections. Jack Daniels tells a story powerfully, and it’s the story of the community and the people who make their product. Their advertising says, ‘Our Tennessee sippin’ whiskey is ready only when our tasters say it is.’
“Our beef checkoff is doing this, too, and making human connections and meeting face-to-face with the consumer to hear about they care about,” noted Essex.
Another popular trend today is the idea of products being simple, fresh, natural and good.
“‘Less is more’ is a concept that’s gaining in popularity, and the recession really put this into overdrive. There is a minimalistic approach, and we’re not hearing about a lot of super foods, we’re hearing about pure, whole and straightforward products.
“Our competitors are going after this approach too. Australian lamb uses the headline ‘natural,’” noted Essex.
She listed the concept of “my way or the highway” as another popular trend today.
“We think we should have it our way, and will go to the company who can provide it. Tailored products fit needs, and people like having all the information at their fingertips so they can make smart decisions as a consumer,” noted Essex.
She listed more menu information, designing your own meal and meat case labeling as examples.
“Consumers want this information, and we need to provide it. We have a product that tells a great story, and has a tremendous amount of nutrients for a small amount of calories,” said Essex.
“Number four is, ‘make me a better offer.’ In 2010, 50 percent of revenue was based on promotion, and in 2008 it was at 35 percent,” noted Essex. “We have to find a way to fill the value equation, and give consumers satisfaction for the right price. Deals are part of it, too.”
Her fifth trend is “going global.”
“Think about Brazil, Russia, India and China. There are lots of opportunities in foreign markets, and we’re seeing those benefits in our beef prices now. The USA continues to be a dominating force, and we’re the number one beef-eating nation in the world. This is happening within our borders as well.
“Twenty-seven percent of baby boomers were ethnically diverse. Forty percent of the millennial generation is ethnically diverse, and we need to find ways for beef to fit beef into ethnic dishes. Celebrating these recipes and menu items and bringing them here to fit into the American diet is a means of exploring and taking advantage of this trend. The consumers want it – they’re interested in exploring international flavors,” explained Essex.
The final trend she highlighted was the idea of affordable luxury.
“We see things like ‘shooter desserts’ that allow us to indulge, and have a special treat, but without tearing up our pocket book or waist line. Promoting beef on more parts of the menu – as appetizers, small plate options and sharing plate dishes are some cool opportunities for our industry.”
She listed filleting ribeye steaks as one example that fits into this trend.
“We take the ribeye from a monster steak into filet cuts, which allows for a better price point and value to consumers, and also allows us to up-charge some. Consumers are responding very favorably to this.”
“Trends are impacting merchandise, and knowing what trends are going on is important. There are several gaining momentum in the marketplace, and they are out there and are a legitimate way to market a commodity,” concluded Essex.