Meat staples, including beef and chicken, were flying off the shelves when the pandemic hit, but as the world enters a “new normal” with COVID-19, consumers likely will buy less meat, less often, but when they do they will seek quality sourcing, transparency, and sustainability, noted Mintel in its 2020 ‘Protein and produce in a post-COVID-19 world’ report.
“Cleaner processing techniques and climate-friendly approaches to raising animals and harvesting meat, resulting in lower yields and higher prices, will lead consumers to see meat as a luxury instead of a commodity,” the market research firm said.
“These predictions still hold true in that consumers will be leaning on a wider variety of protein sources, but the global pandemic has shifted the timeline and some of the reasons why consumers might be eating less meat.”
Price will remain a strong factor for many consumers when choosing to buy animal proteins as they rein in spending in an economic recessionary environment, Mintel added.
“Pork and beef will be especially challenged in the post-COVID-19 reality because plant closures and strains on farms will result in higher prices. In a price sensitive environment, even the category’s most avid consumers might be willing to trade down, or out, to save money.”
Embrace a holistic definition if sustainability
Meat companies will need to ramp up their sustainability commitments and embrace a more holistic definition of sustainability to address ethical and environmental concerns to capture consumers’ shifting priorities, according to Mintel.
“This is tied to the economic recession, supply chain challenges and a consumer mindset shift towards personal health and planetary preservation,” said Mintel.
“The focus will shift towards supporting people and communities as farmer and worker welfare is in the spotlight due to COVID-19.”
Appeal of plants will continue to grow
The zoonotic origins of the coronavirus have raised concern over meat safety for many prompting a larger consumer shift towards plant-based meat alternatives, noted Mintel.
According to the report, 45% of US consumers strongly or somewhat agree that plant protein is healthier than animal protein.
Fruit, vegetables, and legumes will also benefit from elevated consumer interest in whole foods over more processed alternatives.
Mintel also noted that consumers will become more interested in cultured meat – which hasn’t hit the market yet – as result of food safety concerns over animal proteins.
“In light of the hygiene, safety and sustainability concerns, consumers will become more receptive to cultured meat,” said Mintel.
“One of the key advantages of lab-grown proteins is a shorter supply chain allowing for a more mechanized and ‘localized’ production.”
Communicate health and value
Protein’s connection to immune health and overall wellbeing will become a key selling point for meat, which offers high-quality protein, the report stated.
“There’s an opportunity for brands to strategically connect with flexitarian and omnivore consumers alike by aligning with the benefits of protein- and whole food-centric dietary patterns,” said Mintel.
Communicating value by providing convenient, healthy, and tasty meal solutions such as more enticing meal kits and ‘grocerant’ restaurant-quality offering will be key for meat products seeking to maintain its place in the American at-home diet, according to Mintel.
“Showcasing value will be key to maintaining share of plate for animal proteins and substitutes alike, especially as pressure from cultured meat intensifies when these products reach economic scale,” said Mintel.