Consumers pass on beef and pork entrées at restaurants for a variety of reasons. One of them is that these items are perceived as less healthy; rising prices are another issue. Meat purveyors must understand the importance of balancing health perceptions, variety and affordable options for beef and pork.
Health is the leading deterrent to beef and pork consumption, finds Technomic Inc.’s recent (2015) “Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report.” Concerns about sourcing and production are also on the rise—from both consumers and the government. Addressing health concerns about beef and pork can help boost sales, particularly among younger consumers.
In the pipeline are changes to labeling requirements for mechanically tenderized meat and packaged steaks, ribs and other cuts that identify where the animals were born, raised and slaughtered. While some restaurants already responsibly source their meats, at least a third of consumers say they would be more likely to buy and pay more for domestically raised beef (36%) and pork (34%).
Offering natural or grass-fed beef and pork options can increase the better-for-you perception for health- and environment-conscious consumers. High-lighting the high-protein, low-carb content in these items may also help encourage consumers to see beef and pork as more healthful.
To combat rising beef prices, restaurants are offering more innovative pork and chicken dishes as beef replacements. Even heavy beef users, consumers who eat beef as an entrée four or more times per week, are replacing beef with pork because of beef’s higher price point.
Snacks can be one way to offer beef in smaller portions and at a lower price. Two fifths of Millennials say they eat beef for a snack at least once per week, and Technomic research has shown that snack consumption is not only high—but also has increased from 2012-2014. For instance, sliders, which often feature beef or pork, have increased on restaurant menus by 13% since 2012.
Economical cuts and preparations for beef also can help keep costs in check and provide value to consumers. More than two thirds of consumers say they’re interested in beef flavors imparted through roasting or braising. Shredded, slow-cooked meats are being used in egg rolls, quesadillas, poutine, barbecue sandwiches, tacos and more.
Braising can lend itself to the use of flavors from chipotle to coffee to chocolate. Ethnic-inspired dry and paste rubs are likely to emerge, driven by younger consumers’ desires for ethnic and unique flavors. Flavor innovation, snack-sizing, and economical preparation styles and cuts of meat can help drive sales of beef and pork dishes—even in the face of rising prices and negative health perceptions.