A new generation of meat alternatives may capture word of mouth, but traditional meat and poultry items still dominate share of mouth (and pocketbook).
In 2021, plant-based meat’s dollar share equated to 2.7% of retail packaged meat sales, or 1.4% of the total meat category (including random weight meat), according to data released by the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), The Good Food Institute (GFI), and SPINS.
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In contrast, “meat's position as a star player in the grocery has only grown,” writes Jonna Parker, Principal II and a Fresh Foods Team Lead at IRI. In a March 2022 blog (“Making the Most of Meat Growth in 2022”) she noted 2021 sales of meat in the U.S. totaled $82.2 billion, an increase of 46% from 2016.
She added, “A record number of Americans are now heavy meat buyers. 4.2 million more households spent over $600 in meat in 2021 – representing $7.5 billion more in total sales than 2020. These buyers tend to be heavy grocery food buyers in general, with meat as the trip anchor. They make 40 more grocery trips annually than the average American household, and they represent 23 million households.”
Fun with Flavor. Kayem Foods extends line with al fresco Tastes Just Like Chicken Sausages. Four fully-cooked varieties include Chicken Burrito, Nashville Hot Chicken, Chicken Parm, and Fried Rice. Photo courtesy of: Kayem Foods
Parker later includes a list of recommendations for manufacturers and retailers. One of her conclusions is that consumers continues to want solutions—not silos.
“Cooking fatigue is real and people are still eating more meals at home,” she noted. “Consumers want full-meal solutions incorporating meat as well as options that make impressing and entertaining at home easier.”
Prepared Foods’ own review of new meat and poultry products suggests that manufacturers indeed are addressing meal solution ideas and using flavor and convenience as key selling points. Interestingly, more processors also are addressing consumers’ environmental concerns.
While product convenience sets the basic bar for entry, many new products take a flavor-forward approach and appeal directly to the taste buds. This has been particularly true for new chicken and meat offerings from Kayem Foods Inc., BUBBA Foods LLC, Kiolbassa Smoked Meats and Coleman Natural Foods LLC.
Better Put a Ring on It! White Castle, Columbus, Ohio, partnered with frozen food maker Bellisio Foods, Minneapolis, to create a retail version of White Castle’s popular Chicken Rings. Photo courtesy of Bellisio Foods Inc.
Kayem, Chelsea, Mass., extended its al fresco refrigerated chicken line with al fresco Tastes Just Like Chicken Sausages. Four fully-cooked varieties include Chicken Burrito, Nashville Hot Chicken, Chicken Parm, and Fried Rice. Interestingly, the Fried Rice variety includes whole peas, sweet carrots, green onion, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger.
Targeting more regional flavor was Kiolbassa Smoked Meats, San Antonio, Texas, which launched a zesty Louisiana- and Cajun-style Andouille smoked sausage. Elsewhere, BUBBA Foods, Jacksonville, Fla., chose to bring extra heat to summertime grilling with its 12th line extension, a frozen Jalapeño Cheddar burger.
“We’ve all had more time in the kitchen with family over the last two years, and folks have become more comfortable experimenting with new flavors and recipes,” said Travis Crouse, BUBBA Foods chief operating officer. “Our new Jalapeño Cheddar BUBBA burger builds on consumers’ demand for new and bold flavors, pairs well with a variety of toppings, and offers BUBBA convenience.”
For its part, Coleman Natural Foods, Golden, Colo., combines full flavor and convenience in a new line of premium pre-marinated pork loin filets. The 24oz filet come in three varieties—Original, Salt & Pepper, and Garlic & Herb—and are ready in just 40-45 minutes from baking sheet in the home oven.
Convenience: Easy Does It
Equally appealing as flavor is a product’s overall promise to make mealtimes meaningfully more convenient. Among companies targeting just that angle have been JBS USA, Organic Valley, Hormel Corp., The Real Good Food Company, and Butterball.
JBS USA introduced Pound of Ground Crumbles, frozen uncooked ground beef that cooks from frozen in less than 10 minutes with no thawing required. Consumers simply pour crumbles directly into the pan, cook and season for tacos, spaghetti sauce or other dishes. Pound of Ground Crumbles come in three varieties: Original 80/20, Hearty-Sized Pieces 80/20 and Original with Onion. Also targeting the ground beef category was Organic Valley, which launched Organic Prairie Seasoned Ground Beef in three one-pound refrigerated varieties: Italian Style, Sweet Sloppy Joe and Fiesta Blend Seasoned Organic Beef Ground.
Earth-Friendly Eating. Officials say Applegate Naturals Do Good Dog is the first grass-fed beef hot dog made from beef raised with certified practices that regenerate the land. Photo courtesy of Applegate Farms
How about a different twist on tacos—beyond the filling? This May saw The Real Good Food Company, Inc., Cherry Hill, N.J., introduce three varieties of crispy chicken shell tacos in Walmart stores nationwide. Real Good Foods’ tacos are 100% grain-free and gluten-free, have only 2g of net carbs, and are packed with 25g of protein per serving. Real Good Foods’ taco shells do not use processed flours or grains to produce a taco shell—but rather chicken and cheese. Varieties include Seasoned Beef & Cheddar Cheese, Pulled Chicken with Cheddar & Monterey Jack cheeses, and Shredded Chicken with Cacique Oaxaca & Cotija cheeses with Cacique avocado tomatillo salsa.
Delivering more of a complete meal was Hormel, which launched Hormel Square Table entrees in eight varieties. A 15oz package can feed up to three people and 24oz version suits five. Entrees can go from the refrigerator to the microwave to the table in just minutes. Varieties include Meatloaf with Tomato Sauce, Beef Tips and Gravy and Beef Roast Au Jus and Savory Sauce. Hormel Square Table entrees for $6.99-$12.99 and are available at Walmart and local grocery chains nationwide.
Real Good Foods’ tacos are 100% grain-free and gluten-free, have only 2g of net carbs, and are packed with 25g of protein per serving. Real Good Foods’ taco shells do not use processed flours or grains to produce a taco shell—but rather chicken and cheese. Photo courtesy of The Real Good Food Company Inc.
Also delivering a ready meal solution is Butterball’s new Boneless Turkey Breast Roast made from 100% breast meat. The roast is designed to be ready in less than two hours from a grill, smoker, pressure cooker or slow cooker.
The Side Show!
While most meat and poultry items strive for center-of-the plate appeal, other new items are positioned just to the side.
For instance, fast food icon White Castle, Columbus, Ohio, partnered with frozen food maker Bellisio Foods, Minneapolis, to create a retail version of White Castle’s popular Chicken Rings. Two varieties (Original, Spicy) debuted this summer and feature lightly breaded white meat chicken in a stand-up, resealable pouch.
From Perdue Foods, Salisbury, Md., comes another extension to its Perdue Chicken Plus line. New Perdue Chicken Plus Chicken Tots joined nuggets and tenders in the freezercase. All Perdue Chicken Plus items blend the company’s branded chicken with vegetables for a one-quarter cup of veggies per serving. Additionally, the Chicken Tots boast 9g of protein per serving. The product includes cauliflower, chickpeas, cabbage and potatoes with chicken in a crunchy panko coating
New Pound of Ground Crumbles frozen uncooked ground beef cooks from frozen in less than 10 minutes with no thawing required. Photo courtesy of JBS USA
Many health-conscious consumers also consider product attributes that are better for the planet. Among those companies addressing these concerns are Hormel’s Applegate Farms business and New Zealand’s Silver Fern Farms.
Last October brought the Applegate Naturals Do Good Dog, which officials say the first grass-fed beef hot dog made from beef raised with certified practices that regenerate the land. In this case, the Savory Institute, certifies that Applegate’s source, Sun-Fed Ranch, Woodland, Calif., adheres to managed grazing on grass, natural fertilization and no or low tilling. Sun-Fed Ranch also eliminates an synthetic inputs into the land.
“Consumers are inundated with messaging around meat and its contribution to climate change,” notes Gina Gancheva, Applegate Brand Director. “The meat industry is facing particularly strong backlash around [cattle] raising practices. However, regenerative agriculture and its ability to make positive impact on the land can help change that. Applegate’s Do Good Dog represents an opportunity for consumers to make change at the shelf by supporting a product as simple as a hot dog that is working to make positive impact—one small bite at a time.”
This May saw Silver Fern Farms, Dunedin, New Zealand, officially launch its USDA-approved Net Carbon Zero by Nature 100% Grass-Fed Angus Beef at a New York City event. The 100% grass-fed product is already being sold in supermarkets in the New York Tri-state area, the Midwest, and California.
Recognizing that 96% of beef emissions occur on farm, in 2018 Silver Fern Farms commenced a program to map and measure the sequestration potential from the many types of vegetation present on New Zealand farms. Satellite technology, aided by increasingly sophisticated AI software, has been used to measure on-farm vegetation to within 0.5 of a meter, enabling a calculation of each individual farm's ability to sequester carbon.
"Taking care of our emissions is our own responsibility, no-one else's," said Silver Fern Farms CEO Simon Limmer. "We are not outsourcing our emissions, rather we are recognizing and incentivizing our farmers for their efforts to create farm environments that are better able to capture carbon, increase biodiversity, and support nature positive food production."