Although consumers are not eating more animal proteins for dinner, they increasingly are eating them at more surprising dayparts, including breakfast, lunch and snacks. Technomic’s recently released Center of the Plate (COP) series—including the “2017 COP: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report and 2017 COP: Poultry Consumer Trend Report”—reveals how consumers are more interested in a variety of meats outside of dinner—and how operators can use this to their advantage. 

Consumers are eating more chicken for breakfast and snacks now than they were two years ago. Chicken can be positioned as a better-for-you alternative to pork, the most common breakfast protein, which is one reason more operators are adding it to their breakfast sandwiches. For example, McDonald’s is currently testing two chicken breakfast sandwiches in Florida. Chicken also makes for a craveable, high-protein snack option. More restaurant chains, such as Dairy Queen and Arby’s, are adding mini chicken sandwiches to their value snack menus. 

More consumers today than in 2014 are eating pork for lunch, and slightly more are eating it for snacks. Young consumers between 18-34 are driving higher pork consumption at lunch; half of young consumers (49%) ate pork for lunch on an at least weekly basis in 2014, compared with 62% in 2016. This increase is likely due to the proliferation of the trendy pork lunch dishes favored by these consumers, such as pork-belly tacos and pulled-pork sandwiches. One or more of the above-mentioned chicken snack items, such as the mini chicken sandwich at Dairy Queen, also features pork in the form of bacon. 

Beef snacks also are trending among consumers—especially young ones. A third of consumers say they eat beef snacks at least once a week, up from 28% in 2014. Both of Technomic’s COP Reports show proteins are trending up as snacks, which points to the growing demand for filling, craveable and high-protein snacks at restaurants. Chains should consider marketing their meat sandwiches as snacks, particularly among men and young customers. As meat plays an increasingly smaller role on the dinner plate, operators should look to breakfast, lunch and snacks to boost sales with more meat ingredients.   

Originally appeared in the April, 2017 issue of Prepared Foods as Meat Consumption Will Grow Beyond Dinner.