Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Alliance sees opportunity in changing US market

Neal Wallace
Two years of covid has altered consumer buying patterns in the United States and red meat appears to be a beneficiary. 
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Two years of covid has altered consumer buying patterns in the United States and red meat appears to be a beneficiary. 

That is the assessment of Alliance Group sales manager Shane Kingston who was part of a visit by senior management to the market earlier this month.

He said the US market has changed markedly after two years of covid, with consumers noticeably more conscious about their diet, lifestyle, nutrient intake and quality of food they eat.

This creates a challenge for exporters to promote the red meat attributes of iron, vitamins and minerals.

“As we observed with various visits with clients, this is certainly something we need to promote front and centre because consumers are looking for it,” Kingston said.

While red meat sales remain strong, he said distributors and retailers are looking to create more interest at the point of sale.

He said meat cabinets in supermarkets tend to be bland compared to fruit and vegetable displays, but meat offerings could be made more interesting and informative through improved packaging, signage or digital screens.

Demand for lamb is growing in the US, increasing in value by 30% in the two years to March.

“People are looking for diversity of choice and lamb fits that space,” he said.

Venison is becoming more prevalent and Alliance is introducing customers to it through 1lb mince packs, which is proving effective, and cuts are appearing on foodservices sector menus.

Introducing the product to US consumers is steady but has some way to go.

He said version one of plant-based protein “has had its moment,” with reduced space and visibility in retail outlets and, in many cases, prices are heavily discounted to drive sales.

He believes the red meat sector should not relax as alternative protein manufacturers have the money to generate new versions and products.

“We don’t want to get complacent or take these producers on,” he said.

But they have a challenge trying to unseat red meat consumption in the US.

Total sales of alternative protein in the US in the year to March were $US472m, compared to meat sales of $US6.3b.

Sales in March were $US33m, with lamb sales alone for the month at $38m.

One other noticeable change in the market in the last two years, has been the growth of pet food and launch of new brands.

Fish, chicken and turkey are being preferred in dry pet food product to beef, lamb and venison formulations due to price and availability.

He said pricing pressure is being felt by US consumers, where inflation is running at 8.5%.

Studies show 61% of consumers are implementing cost saving measures, 

with a noticeable increase in beef mince sales and shifts from some red meat protein to white meat such as chicken.

He said this is not reflected in the buying patterns of high net worth consumers who seem to be insulated from those economic pressures.

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