Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020 - 15

O

ne of the enduring images of the early
months of the COVID pandemic was
empty grocery store shelves.
Frequently, those shelves were fresh meat cases.
When times get tough, consumers want to make
sure they have plenty of protein stockpiled.
The empty shelves got the attention of
the Denver-based National Cattlemen's Beef
Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.
"We wanted to understand what people were
stocking up on," said Shawn Darcy, the association's
senior director for market research.
On April 10, the association began polling 250
shoppers a week about their fresh meat (not just
beef) purchases. The poll was taken every week
through Aug. 18, and the final results were striking.
"We're seeing nearly two thirds of all consumers
stocking up at least a little bit more than they
typically would," Darcy said.
Ground beef and chicken breasts are the top
two stock-up pandemic items, the association
discovered.
One item that consumers seemed not to be
stocking up was plant-based meat alternatives, said
Bridget Wasser, the association's executive director
for meat science.
In some weeks where ground beef, chicken
breasts and other popular stock-up items were
polling in the 60s among consumers, plant-based
was at around 11%.
"In some of the photos where you see empty
meat cases you can still see plant-based products,"
Wasser said. "It was harder for folks to stock up on
more expensive proteins."

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Beyond ground beef
While ground beef is king in beef when it comes to
stocking up, more expensive beef products have
also fared well during the pandemic, Darcy said.
"Beef is in a good spot. Demand continues to
be high even if prices are a little higher," he said.
"People are more budget-conscious, but they're
defining value in different ways."
For example, he said, people are still taking
advantage of warm weather and buying steaks for
the grill, Darcy said. In fact, with recreation and
social options limited during the pandemic, cooking
a steak in your backyard is likely seen by many
consumers as an indulgence worth making.
"People are planning to grill more at home, where
steak can really come into play," Wasser said.
The association's study of COVID era fresh meat
purchase trends also found that, while keeping up
with demand was a real problem at the beginning

2/3 of all consumers
are stocking up on
meat more than
they usually would.

86%
are cooking meals
at home during
the pandemic, and
about two-thirds
said the percentage
of meals they were
cooking at home
was higher now
than before the
pandemic.

90%

said they needed
to have at least a
week 's worth of
meat to consider
themselves "stocked
up," and

57%

said they were often
buying three weeks'
worth of meat
at a time.

20%
have at least five
weeks of meals
in stock.

of the pandemic, the industry responded quickly.
"There were so many problems at first, companies
had to completely rehaul their distribution systems,"
Wasser said. "It's a lot better now. The out of stock
numbers have really gone down. Production for beef
is almost back to 100%, and both supply and price are
really normalizing."
At the beginning of the association's polling period,
18% of consumers said they were concerned about
meat being out of stock. By August, that number had
shrunk to 5%.
"We're not seeing a lot of concern related to beef,"
Darcy said.

Demand in the "new normal"
One of the association's findings indicates that even
post-pandemic, consumer demand for beef and other
fresh meats should continue to be strong. About 86%
of people are cooking meals at home, and about
two-thirds indicated that the percentage of meals
they were cooking at home was higher now than they
typically would cook in the past.
As far as what the definition of "stocking up" was for
the purpose of its study, the association let consumers
define it, Darcy said.
But the term definitely took shape as the poll
progressed. For instance, about 90% said they needed
to have at least a week's worth of meat to consider
themselves "stocked up," and 57% said they were often
buying three weeks' worth of meat at a time.
Darcy said it's hard to predict how much of
their behaviors will remain post-COVID, but
the association's findings suggest at least some
will. For instance, six out of ten of those polled
said they'll continue to stock up on meat for the
foreseeable future.
Another trend that has accelerated during the
pandemic and will likely have real staying power,
Wasser said, is online purchases of fresh meat.
"Over 60% have done at least some shopping
online, and 70% said they've started or increased
their purchases because of the pandemic," she said.
"That attraction level is very high. At first there was
reluctance to buy fresh beef online. Now it's up
exponentially."
Even with higher end cuts, Darcy said, consumers
have a largely favorable view on online.
"People who buy online have been very happy with
their steak experience," he said.

Filling the fridge and freezer
About 60% of consumers are stocking up more now
than they did before, according to the association's
research. Most consumers have between one to four
OCTOBER 2020 - 15

SP_Oct20.indb 15

9/25/2020 9:13:48 AM



Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020

Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020 - 1
Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020 - 1
Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020 - 2
Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020 - 3
Supermarket Perimeter - October 2020 - 4
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