What does the modern meat eater want from their local grocer’s meat department?

People take their meat very seriously – when customers want products from grass-fed, free-range livestock with no antibiotics or additives, they’ll let you know and expect you to show them products that suit their discerning needs.

As of late, carnivorous consumers have begun acting uncharacteristically sheepish – a confluence of consumer trends have led to shoppers spending less on meat overall and purchasing meat less frequently when they do their grocery shopping.

Can commercial meat departments do anything to help meat sales return to their former glory?

Less expensive selection
On average, meat sales represent 11 percent of a food retailer’s total in-store sales, according to a 2015 Nielsen report. That’s both a testament to the food group’s popularity among shoppers as much as it is an out-and-out account of its cost. As such, even a supermarket’s most buy-happy beast of prey may still balk at high unit prices and expensive cuts sitting in their retail meat cases.

A Progressive Grocer survey may hold the answer – after polling food retailers across the country, the organization found more than 68 percent of them have noticed a demand for smaller portion sizes in ready-to-go packages. For a supermarket’s butcher block, this may mean investing in additional backend meat packaging equipment like vacuum sealers and heat shrink tunnels to drive productivity and fill cases with smaller, more affordable fresh goods.

Bountiful prepared options
Nielsen also indicated a recent uptick in prepared food sales. That tells us one thing about grocery store consumers these days: They don’t have a lot of time on their hands to cook. And obviously, if customers purchase raw ground beef or a juicy top round, they’re going to need to spend a little time preparing it.

This would be an excellent opportunity for the meat and the prepared food departments to team up and deliver more ready-made meaty dinners like hot hamburgers, rotisserie chicken or country-style pork chops.

“Many people enjoy more flexible dining options than cut-and-dry meat or meatless diets.”

Balancing meat with other fresh choices
What about when former carnivores turn over a new leaf and begin eating like herbivores? Vegetarian and vegan menus aren’t just for those who never touch meat. Many people simply enjoy more flexible dining options than cut-and-dry meat or meatless diets.

With that in mind, meat departments and their managing supermarkets should focus on delivering more products that make meat an ingredient rather than the whole meal. For instance, additional grinding equipment and knives behind the counter means more diced and ground options for customers to choose from. Give in-store omnivores a break from steak and offer bite-size meat options that could spice up a stir-fry or give their salads a protein kick.

As we mentioned earlier, supermarkets depend on the continued success of fresh meat sales to keep their businesses profitable. By purchasing innovative commercial meat processing and packaging equipment, grocery store managers and their staffs can capitalize on changing consumer trends without biting off more than they can chew.