The 2012 Power of Meat Report is the seventh in an annual report series exploring consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviors regarding fresh meat and poultry and food shopping and preparation. Respondents are evenly distributed across the U.S. as surveys are conducted through an online consumer database. In 2012, the study explored a number of topics including: consumer consumption and purchasing patterns, nutrition, marketing techniques, consumer interest in organic and natural meat and packaging and labeling. This year's report confirmed that the unsteady economy continues to yield savvy grocery shoppers motivated primarily by cost; however for the first time, the share of shoppers simply opting to buy less meat in order to cut costs equaled the share of shoppers using lists, coupons and other saving measures.

A few key packaging findings include:
  • 28% of shoppers said they would purchase more meat and poultry if packaged using environmentally friendly materials, even if it costs a little more. 49% said they would only purchase more if there was no price difference

  • 70% of shoppers believe meat packaged in a case-ready format is as good as meat processed in the store.

  • 51% of respondents said they would redirect their purchases to leak-proof meat and poultry packaging in the 2012 Power of Meat Report, versus 26% in the 2011 report.

  •  68% of consumers are aware that in some stores meat is cut and packaged before arriving at the store.

  •  Awareness of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) rose to 39% of shoppers in 2012 versus 33%  in 2011, though it has little reported influence on purchasing decisions if the price of U.S. meat or poultry is higher.
Cost continues to be the largest factor weighing on consumers’ minds as saving appears to be just as important to shoppers as it was at the onset of the recession. Since 2008, shoppers have developed and maintained a number of post-recession shopping behaviors to control their food expenses at retail outlets. Consumer methods for stretching their dollar at the grocery store range from pre-trip planning to reducing the frequency of shopping trips. Researching sales and promotions tops the list of ways shoppers are trying to save on meat purchases, followed closely by cutting back on meat spending and buying less expensive cuts of meat. Another cost-saving measure that appears to be growing in popularity with shoppers is opting for private-label fresh meat, with 64% of respondents reporting that they frequently purchase private-label fresh meats. One previously popular money-saving strategy that has declined since 2010 is buying fresh meat in bulk/family packages. The percentage of shoppers who reported purchasing meat in larger quantities to freeze and use over time remained at 52% in the 2012 report, following a high of 60% in 2010. This phenomenon falls within a larger trend of shoppers seeking to control their inventory and save money by simply buying less.

While supermarkets still remain the dominant food outlet for most grocery purchases, the 2012 Power of Meat Report found that consumer preferences in this regard can vary based on the specific products purchased, most notably in meat and poultry purchases. The survey found that 90% of supermarket patrons purchase meat and poultry at the supermarket, growing from 88% in 2011, while supercenters and warehouse clubs experienced slight decreases in the percentage of patrons purchasing meat and poultry. Additionally, supermarkets continue to lead as the primary store for organic meat and poultry purchases, with supercenters experiencing a 7% increase in this category since 2006 and natural/organic retailers seeing an 8% decrease since 2006. While a number of external factors such as location, age and household size have an effect on where shoppers purchase meat and poultry, household income remains the largest differentiating factor. It is particularly interesting to note that of the shoppers spending less on groceries in 2012; nearly half of them did so by simply buying less. This is nearly the same as the share of shoppers who spend less through the use of lists, coupons, private label and other money-saving measures.

The 2012 Power of Meat Report, conducted by 210 Analytics (www.210analytics.com), was commissioned jointly by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) with sponsorship by Sealed Air’s Cryovac Food Packaging Division. AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America and conducts scientific research through its Foundation to help meat and poultry companies improve their plants and products. FMI conducts programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education and industry relations on behalf of its nearly 1,250 food retail and wholesale member companies in the United States and around the world, with international membership including 126 companies from more than 65 countries. Sealed Air’s Cryovac Food Packaging Division is a worldwide leader in packaging technologies for the food processing, supermarket and foodservice industries and is devoted to making the distribution and merchandising of fresh foods efficient and effective.