Customers, businesses appreciate locally sourced meat

Over the past few decades, the divide between eating at home and dining out has closed. Prepared foods are the culmination of this equilibrium, combining the comforts of a home-cooked meal with on-the-go convenience and an affordable price point. So it’s no surprise that, according to the 2016 The Why? Behind the Dine consumer survey from Acosta, nearly 6 out of 10 Americans have eaten ready-made meals from their local grocers and other prepared foods purveyors in the three months prior to polling.

However, many customers still prefer cooking their own meals or enjoy the flexibility of cooking when they can. How can supermarkets target all audiences effectively and efficiently? One surefire method is loudly and proudly sourcing your meat from local farmers.

What’s the appeal of local meat to the average shopper?
As millennials grow older, start families and become the majority of the grocery consumer base, their opinions regarding the foods they buy and eat will greatly affect how retailers brand themselves and sell goods. The local sourcing movement is among the most dominant forces at play as millennials assume the mantle of the largest consumer demographic.

“Millennials prefer farmers markets and natural foods stores to chain grocers.”

One 2016 study, from the Agricultural Economics Extension of the University of Kentucky, shined a light on where millennial shoppers believe the highest quality raw meat comes from and how those attitudes differ from other generations. All parties surveyed agreed nothing beats meat from a local butcher shop. But whereas baby boomers and Generation X thought the best meat came from a “large chain grocer” or a “small chain or independent grocer,” millennials preferred the “farmers market” and the “natural foods store” by a considerable margin over their predecessors.

Supermarkets and mid-sized grocers ought to get ahead of this shift by reaffirming their commitments to consumers with marketing campaigns that spotlight pure, locally sourced proteins.

How do locally sourced goods benefit the business?
Sure, maybe we didn’t need a scientific study to tell us young people care a lot about how their meats are processed. Supermarkets witness this phenomenon every day at check-out lines and butcher counters around the country. If store managers and decision-makers still need a little coaxing, however, the value of a strong local-sourcing initiative goes far beyond unit sales.

“Locally grown or made ingredients convince 46 percent of shoppers to buy foodstuffs.”

First, locally sourced food products are a resource supermarkets capitalize on more than dining establishments, among their top competitors. Referring back to the Acosta survey, marketing that touted “locally grown or made ingredients” convinced 46 percent of shoppers to buy foodstuffs compared to 26 percent who chose a restaurant menu item based on the same criteria. From the looks of it, supermarkets have an opportunity to prosper from locally sourced goods in a way their market share competitors can’t seem to.

Second, supplementing on-shelf merchandise and prepared foods inventory with locally sourced foods makes good logistical sense. Shipping interruptions along long supply chains can wreak havoc on the quality of perishable goods and the retailer’s selling potential. By shortening the supply chain and partnering with nearby farms, supermarkets and grocers can reduce risks to stocking and sales in the long-term.

However, a word of caution to businesses that intend to work with local farmers: small operations may not be able to provide the quantity needed. But with careful planning and consideration to this challenge, businesses can still sell these natural ingredients among others throughout the meat aisle, at the butcher block and in prepared foods.

Equipment investment suggestions for sourcing locally
Apart from quantity, farms that supermarkets choose to partner with may lack the ability to process and package meat to the point where it’s customer-ready. This may require retailers to invest in equipment like meat saws and grinders as well as employee training for these machines.

In exchange for an upfront investment, supermarkets become more self-reliant and solidify their ongoing relationships with farmers in their area. Better still, agreeing to process meat on-site might even reduce costs when negotiating with suppliers.

At the end of the day, the supermarket wants what the consumer wants, but never before have both of those needs been so intertwined. Local sourcing initiatives aren’t just good for stomachs and sales. They raise up communities and reconnect people to the food they eat.