During the 2014 Annual Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., this week, members of the Cattlemen's Beef Board presented new research regarding beef market characteristics and trends.
The research, collectively termed the beef industry scan, dives into what beef producers must consider in setting priorities and planning programs for their checkoff investments for next year.
This scan is provided through information from food and nutrition scientists, market representatives, and retail and food-industry operators and is coordinated with the Beef Industry Long Range Plan.
This year's scan provided information that allowed the Long Range Plan Advisory Group to make the necessary refinements to that plan.
In her address to beef and dairy producers at the convention, Polly Ruhland, Cattlemen's Beef Board CEO, reviewed some of the highlights of the scan:
• First, it emphasizes the importance of evidence to support our desired outcomes. Speculation or just reporting what we see from our view simply is not enough. Instead, we must rely on sound science and rigorous scientific standards to ensure the ongoing success of checkoff programs.
• That includes gaining acceptance for research and investing at a level that ensures consistent and sound results. No doubt, this is a difficult task given the strain on checkoff resources, but we really have to be resourceful and smart in making our research investments – because challenged research can negate efforts if it reduces confidence or makes our work appear biased. The Industry Scan emphasized the clear challenges and benefits of accomplishing this.
• Another critical piece of the puzzle is the need to identify and engage with our consumer target audiences in delivering our beef messages. That includes research that we have completed first to define millennials as our target audience and, second, to get to know everything we can about their behaviors and demands when it comes to marketing and making decisions about beef for their families.
• This will allow us to connect with them where they get their information – on digital platforms – and provide them with the information they need to understand the benefits of beef and the beef products they need to meet their very specific demands. For example, millennials bring very different attitudes than boomers when it comes to food, cooking and eating. Our research indicates that the most important quality millennials look for in their food is a combination of taste, convenience and health. They also are interested in trying new ways of preparing food, frequently try new cuisines from around the world, and are willing to pay more for food that meets their requirements.
• Almost 70% of millennials say they go first to the Internet when they need information about anything – including beef. And the data corroborate that, when you learn that there are 2.5 million food-related posts online every day, and that consumers register 4.5 million daily views on top cooking sites and 5.5 million on food-related searches.
• To our benefit, millennials also are much more likely to share what they learn and much more likely to buy a product or food that their friends recommend on social media.
"These results are critical to planning efforts of the next few months – and years, for that matter," says Ruhland. "When it comes to price, we quickly hit up against an oft-misunderstood concept of beef consumption vs. demand. You have probably heard reports lately that chicken consumption actually surpassed beef consumption for the first time in 100 years. I would ask that you keep in mind that consumption is not demand – consumption is simply equal to supply, because we use our entire beef supply.
"Still, combined with positive consumer perceptions about chicken's convenience and health advantages and a recent study that found that, when going head-to head, more consumers – and especially millennials – say they prefer chicken over beef for dinner, the price difference helps make fowl a formidable competitor.
"So while we are excited about how strong beef demand remains – with retail demand advancing more about 2% in 2013 and consumers saying at the beginning of 2014 that they are still willing to pay more for beef -- we must continue to offer consumers a great value or risk negatively impacting demand."