Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Red meat marketing: A world of innovation

Beef and lamb, like other commodities, operates in a global marketplace. Whilst each country competes for sales, the trade needs to grow internationally to ensure that people across the world maintain the meat-eating habit. Collaborating with other countries to share best practice on producing consistent, high quality product is a key to making sure this happens.  

AHDB Beef & Lamb’s ‘World of Innovation’ conference centred on using best practice across the world to help market beef and lamb carcases more effectively to drive red meat sales.

The conference on September 10 at the Tower of London, was attended by representatives from across the retail, foodservice and independent sectors. They were all eager to improve their understandings of trends in the beef and lamb markets, learn how innovation in new product development (NPD) can boost sales, and hear from the keynote speakers from the Beef Innovation Group in the USA.

The event was kicked off by AHDB Beef & Lamb’s head of trade marketing, Mike Whittemore, who gave an insight into the brand pillars which form the trade marketing strategy. Campaigns range from thin cuts steaks, which repositions stewing and braising cuts as quick-cook and versatile, through to initiatives to help trade rediscover lamb and advances in reviving slow cooking. The overview illustrated the breadth of work the team undertake in maximising carcase utilisation and advances in research to meet the demands of the consumer.

Multiple retail trade sector manager, Matt Southam, then gave a beef and lamb market update. With a number of buyers and category managers in attendance, top of their list of questions was what motivates today’s shoppers to put beef and lamb into their baskets. Looking at how, when and who people are eating beef and lamb with, Matt showed that modern consumers looks for convenient quick-to-cook meals which can serve smaller households. With the average time spent making main meals down from 60 minutes in 1980 to 31 minutes in 2014, and 5.4 per cent more people eating alone than ever before, the need to provide an option that suits these changing consumer lifestyles is key for the red meat industry.

Matt revealed that more consumers are moving away from ‘home-made’ cooking. In fact, research suggested people will spend 234% more for meal solutions rather than individual ingredients. For the beef and lamb trade to meet this demand they need to provide recipe inspiration and innovation in packing options to give shoppers an easy-to-cook, yet tasty dish.

AHDB Beef & Lamb’s business development manager, Dick van Leeuwen, provided insight into NPD innovation. He outlined the need for foodservice and retail to offer NPD to keep traditional primals relevant for changing consumer lifestyles. However key to innovation in NPD is consistency. Product consistency is the only way to ensure that trade offers shoppers something good every time and inspires loyalty to the product. He gave brief examples how seam butchering various cuts, like
the rump cap into premium picanha steaks, could add over a £1m to the annual retail sales value of the muscles. However central to Dicks’ message was to get the butchery techniques and cutting specifications right to offer profit and returns.

Keynote speaker, Jim Ethridge the executive director of strategic account management at the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA), explored consumer trends from the US retail and foodservice markets, with particular focus on power of younger consumers - ‘the millennials’. He showed how food was central to the daily lives of younger consumers. Through social media, young people share food innovation and experiences - 19 per cent of 21 to 24-year-olds have borrowed someone else’s food to take a picture of it and post on social media! For Jim the key to marketing red meat, in particular beef, is to engage on social media to build loyalty and continue to educate young consumers to maintain their confidence in cooking beef in the kitchen.

Steve Wald, the second keynote speaker and executive director of innovation at the NCBA, examined how new technology had helped the US’s beef market change for the better. NPD in the states has been used to create a product that makes a beef dinner at home just as good as eating out. Though Steve’s team are working on a number of projects to help achieve this, the audience were fascinated by their advances in special microwave packaging. The packaging is a cook-in-the-bag concept which cooks whole joints quickly in the microwave, whilst locking in fresh flavour. The added benefit for people testing the product was the minimal amount of washing up to do after it was cooked. Though the initiative is still being developed, the innovative nature of the technology was something Steve encouraged the audience to learn from.

Hugh Judd, foodservice project manager for AHDB Beef & Lamb, was then joined on stage by Inside Foodservice’s MD Simon Peat. The pair gave an insight into trends in foodservice that retailers and independent butchers can capitalise on. Outlining some of the key foodservice operators who are putting lamb and beef on their menus in new and innovative ways, Simon and Hugh showed how many restaurants are moving towards international cuisines but still placing focus on locally sourced products.
The final presentation of the day was delivered by AHDB Beef & Lamb’s marketing communications manager, Mo Fisher. She shared upcoming research the organisation is undertaking linking meat to health, helping to dispel common consumption myths which can be a barrier to sales. The presentation also outlined how the team are working towards increasing awareness of the important role that meat plays in the diet.

Conference chairman and sector director of AHDB Beef & Lamb, Nick Allen, summed the conference’s key message - that innovation is essential if we are to ensure beef and lamb remain part of peoples' busy modern lifestyles.  
To view all the presentations from the day click here.

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