Meat retailers need to keep consumers engaged post-COVID

The pandemic causes some major shifts in purchasing behavior that will have long-lasting effects. Consumers flocked to retail meat departments during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic conditions suggest that strong demand could continue for the foreseeable future. Retailers will need to innovate and evolve to keep animal proteins at the center of the plate post-pandemic.

“We had a fantastic year over the last 12 months. How can we keep that momentum going?” asked Dhamu Thamodaran, who served as the Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Commidity Hedging Officer of Smithfield Foods for more than 26 years before retiring in December 2020.

“Right now, the current economic conditions are ripe for strong retail for the next several years,” he added, citing strong COVID-19 vaccination numbers across the country, government stimulus to boost spending and long-term economic changes due to COVID-19 that will drive consumers to spend their dollars in retail over foodservice.

Thamadaran, alongside Lisa Selk, Vice President of Marketing, Meat Products, Hormel Foods and John Beretta, Group Vice President, Meat & Seafood, Albertsons Companies, shared insights on how to keep consumers at retail post-pandemic during a session at the Annual Meat Conference.

Know your customers

It is important to know what your customers are looking for. What purchasing behaviors have they engaged in? What kind of strong preferences do they have?

“We are definitely seeing some permanent behaviors shifts as we went through this past year,” Selk explained. “One thing that we’ve heard a lot during this conference is how people are finding new recipes and ideas in the digital medium.”

A whole new generation of younger cooks use videos on social media platforms like TikTok to find inspiration, which gives retailers a new opportunity to capture the attention of consumers.

Interest in online shopping for meat, poultry and other food products skyrocketed during the pandemic and the trend is expected to continue to grow.

Leverage retail strengths

What benefits does retail offer over foodservice? Leverage those strengths – value, freshness, family meal planning and more – to continue to attract customers.

“Supporting meal planning solutions is going to be a huge success for our consumers as they get ready to go back to work and they have less time to prepare meals,” Beretta said. “Value-add and value-add innovation is going to be very important for us to bring in this post-pandemic economy.”

Another way retail stories can leverage strengths is by partnering with banking, pharmacy and prepared meals to offer expanded services to consumers, Thamadaran suggested.

View our continuing coverage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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Par Elizabeth Doughman (28/03/2021)

Photo : Mgg Vitchakorn (Unsplash)