Like any retail sector, the meat and poultry industry is susceptible to changing buying patterns and consumer trends. Two key drivers affecting meat and poultry purchasing are convenience and health.
Convenience Driving Demand
Since the 1980s, people have spent less and less time on meal preparation and indeed on sitting down together as a family to enjoy the main meal of the day. Over the decades, the emphasis has switched to convenience, with fast preparation and easy shopping becoming key factors influencing shopping decisions. Back then, there really was no such thing as a ready meal, whereas now the supermarket aisles are packed with chilled and frozen foods that require little more than unwrapping and heating up. For the time-pressed consumer today, this is very appealing, as shown by the growth in the UK chilled food market, which is expected to rise by 15 per cent by 2020, according to The Poultry Site.
Another key consideration driving change in meat purchasing trends is a growing perception that reduced meat intake is a healthy lifestyle choice. Increased awareness of issues such as obesity and a stronger interest in healthier eating has put pressure on the meat industry, whilst the poultry market continues to grow, with white meat seen to be a healthy option.
For those operating in the food processing industry, these changes create some unique challenges, but they also present great opportunities for future growth. Embracing the trend for convenience food will see many operators invest in meat processing machinery from companies such as Clarke Fussells (http://www.clarke-fussells.co.uk/) in order to stay at the front of the sector.
There is an enormous range of foods that can exploit the trends for convenience and healthy eating. Ready meals are an obvious example of how the industry has adapted to the demand for convenience, but many other products are helping to drive the convenience market, such as pre-packed chicken fillets and turkey steaks, sausages and other value-added meat products. Choosing white meat is seen as a healthy choice for many, and the lean chicken fillet is a perfect choice for the health-conscious consumer.
It is clear that the meat and poultry sector faces continued challenges, but innovation and flexibility from operators can offer a means of securing significant growth for the future.