Consumers increasingly are aware of high saturated fat and cholesterol levels in meat and poultry and the implications of these for their own health. But at the same time, they crave more protein and satiety, which many view as primary benefits of these products.
As a result, about half of 2,000 consumers that Packaged Facts surveyed in 2015 said they are eating less red meat than previously and more than a quarter say they eat less poultry. At the same time, a quarter say they have switched to healthier meat and poultry products in the last year – a trend Packaged Facts predicts will grow in the report.
In addition, 15% of consumers say they now avoid red meat completely, and a third say they are eating more meatless meals than in the past.
“Despite those shifts, about 70% said they still prefer to get their protein from animal sources,” which is reflected in the 3% increase in meat and poultry sales from 2014 to $93.3 billion in 2015, according to the report.
Within this, sales of poultry – which often is viewed as healthier than meat – outpaced that of meat.
While the 3% growth is positive, it pales in comparison to the “impressive,” albeit “erratic” 9% compound annual growth rate of meat substitutes from 2010-2015.
Likewise, the projected CAGR for meat and poultry combined will continue to slow in the coming years with a projected 2.8% increase from 2015-2020. Alternatively, sales of meat substitutes will speed slightly to 3.1% in the same time. Poultry will outpace both at a projected 3.8% in the next five years, Packaged Facts predicts.
Positioning meat and poultry as healthy
Manufacturers and retailers are actively trying to reposition meat and poultry as more healthy by playing up “free-from” claims and levels of protein, which is the “nutrient de jour,” according to Packaged Facts.
“Retailers and food service operators are pursuing meat and poultry products that meet the health and wellness standards that are of great importance to today’s consumers,” which “in the current vernacular is defined by what the product doesn’t have, such as artificial ingredients or preservatives,” the report notes.
One way they are doing this is by featuring more locally produced meat and poultry products from small farms, the report found. It explains that “‘local’ has, to a great extent, become a code word meaning ‘free-from’.”
The successful repositioning of meat snacks as healthy could serve as an example to other products in the category. They play up protein, satiety and the ability to be consumed in a hurry, instead of other higher fat, lower nutrient snacks, Packaged Facts says.
Another bright spot for the category is the growing popularity of all-day breakfast, which is boosting sales of breakfast meat and poultry products, the report says.
These positive trends give the category hope, even in the face of more consumers adopting vegetarian and vegan diets and turning away from meat and poultry for health reasons.