AHDB Beef & Lamb multiple retail trade sector manager, Matt Southam, highlights the growing importance of convenience as a key motivator of product choice for consumers.
There is no avoiding the fact that consumer eating habits have changed significantly in recent years, brought about by a number of factors, such as increased time pressures, less cooking education as well as an increase in the number of smaller households.
One of the most startling consequences, as far as the meat industry is concerned, is the reduction in the amount of time consumers spend preparing and cooking the evening meal – down from 60 minutes in 1980 to just 31 minutes in 2014.
We, as an industry, need to adapt and cater for these changes in consumer lifestyles and needs. And that means focusing on convenience – offering a range of easy-to-cook products and meal solutions that consumers don’t have to spend hours preparing.
At AHDB Beef & Lamb, we recognised these changing dynamics a few years ago and developed our Carvery range of mini roasts. The smaller roasting joints are easy to prepare, require a reduced cooking time – in comparison to traditional larger joints – and are versatile enough to be used as part of a variety of meal solutions any day of the week. And that’s exactly how we are marketing them. In fact, a few months ago we saw the return to television of our Midweek Mini Roast advertising campaign, aimed at repositioning roasting joints as a convenient and viable meal solution during the week.
One of our most recent product development initiatives – introduced with convenience firmly in mind – is our new range of Thin Cut Steaks. Not only are they quick to cook, but they are great value, lean and versatile. Thin Cut Steaks provide an ideal ingredient for a variety of meal solutions, including stir-fries, salads, stroganoff and sandwiches.
The ever-increasing demand for convenient meal solutions is backed by the long-term move away from home-cooked meals to manufactured options. However, this does not mean that consumers only want ready-meals as the desire to cook is still there.
The ready-to-cook market presents the beef and lamb industry with a significant opportunity to profit by providing pre-packed and pre-prepared meal solutions. Research shows that consumers are willing to spend significantly more on products that have been enhanced with a marinade, accompaniment or that have been packaged in an oven-ready format.
The popularity of sous vide pre-cooked products that simply need to be heated up is on the increase too. Where added value cuts such as the beef brisket and lamb shoulder may have once been overlooked because of the lengthy cooking time required, consumers can now get the fantastic tenderness and flavours in a matter of minutes by simply reheating pre-prepared products. Consumers’ desire to produce an appealing meal can be achieved in very little time.
Convenience is a significant growth driver in the US too, as we discovered at our World of Innovation conference last autumn. New packaging concepts, for products such as microwavable mince and all-in-one slow cooker bags, were showcased, highlighting that the desire to cook in a hassle-free way is on the increase across the world.
We expect this trend to continue and for consumers to demand more and more convenient products. To attract these consumers, we need to offer them more beef and lamb dishes that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.
My colleagues and I in the AHDB Beef & Lamb trade marketing team would welcome the opportunity to discuss our latest product development initiatives or work with retailers to optimise their product ranges to cater for the needs of today’s consumers. Our contact details can be found here.