Employing checkoff-funded market research to build demand for beef

WHO represents the target market for beef promotion, and who do they trust?

WHAT do they care about most when it comes to food and food production, and what are the characteristics of the beef they would serve to their families?

WHEN do they decide to eat beef and what beef products do they choose most?

WHERE are they from/demographics, and where do these consumers go to get information, and where do they shop?

WHY do they want to eat beef and why do they not eat more beef?

HOW do they get information about beef, and how do they share that information?

These are just a few of the questions that the beef checkoff leaders seek to answer through extensivemarket-research efforts as they guide the investment of checkoff dollars into promotion and information programs aimed at increasing beef demand.

Knowledge about consumers – beef buyers AND potential buyers – is critical. After all, consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to buying beef – or any other product, for that matter. Until we understand the wants and needs of a target audience, what are the chances of meeting their requirements in the beef and beef products we produce for them? It would be like shooting in the dark and hoping to hit something.

That’s why market research is the foundation of all other programs funded by the beef checkoff. In short, it grounds checkoff planning efforts with knowledge about what drives a beef-purchase decision at the retail meat case and in restaurants. It spotlights beef’s strengths and weaknesses. It helps planners set consumer goals and track progress toward those goals, then share that information with chefs, retailers, restaurants, nutritionists, dietitians, doctors, foodies, and other influencers. And it helps target checkoff investments in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

So what are the answers to the above questions? Here are the short answers, according to the extensive collection of checkoff-funded market research:

  • The target market for beef promotion and education is the millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 2000. They trust what they can see, but also the advice of foodies and health professionals. They also want to dig online and find out what their friends and other sources tell them. They love great food, since they grew up in the era of food shows on TV, and beef is included in their definition of “craveable”, wonderful food. They want hints, tips, knowledge about choosing a great steak – anything that can help them maximize their enjoyment of beef.
     
  • They care about where their food comes from and how it serves their families’ needs. They want their beef to be safe, nutritious, flavorful, tender, convenient, easy to prepare, and raised with care for the animals and environment. They want lots of choices and information that will set a good example for their children.
     
  • When millennials want to “celebrate” by getting out to the grill, they choose beef more often than any other protein. On an everyday basis, however, they make decisions about what to fix for supper at 4 p.m. or later, and often make decisions while in the grocery store. They choose ground beef for family meals most often but want information to expand their choices to new and different cuts and uses.
     
  • Millennials are 80 million strong; more racially diverse; finding their niche in the world; asking more questions about their food; increasing their food spending. They get their information overwhelmingly through social media, including food bloggers, dietitians, “foodies” and other influencers. About 83 percent of them sleep with their cell phone right next to their beds. They shop at various retail stores, but they love Trader Joe’s, Costco, farmers’ markets, and food trucks. By 2020, total spending power of older millennial parents will hit $1.4 trillion a year.
     
  • Beef’s great taste is the No. 1 reason that millennials and other consumers eat beef, and the most limiting factors to increased beef consumption are “health reasons,” “limiting cholesterol or fat,” and “other meats seem healthier.” About 45 percent say they are extremely or very likely to add one more beef meal per week once they discover that beef is nutrient-rich, that many lean cuts are available, and that lean beef compares favorably to chicken.
     
  • Millennials overwhelmingly get their information about beef and beef production through online and social-media channels. More than 90 percent of Americans eat beef at least monthly, and 35 percent have more than three servings of beef a week, with similar numbers for millennials.

These obviously are highly simplified answers, but every one of them is important to the beef community’s ability to change negative perceptions about beef – as defined through another comprehensive area of market research: consumer perceptions. And a deep understanding of consumers is an absolute necessity for developing checkoff programs that drive that change.

In short, market research not only puts all of the puzzle pieces on the table, it also helps checkoff leaders put them together for a clear picture of today’s marketplace. Learn more about these and other research programs funded through your checkoff program at Beef Research.