When they go out for breakfast, lunch or dinner, more consumers are choosing beef, according to the Beef Checkoff program (a producer-funded marketing and research program designed to increase domestic and/or international demand for beef). In fact, 97% of restaurants report offering beef dishes, which has been shown to increase restaurant traffic by 45%, the checkoff reported.
Overall, beef demand is up 15% since 2012. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting strong consumer demand to continue through 2019, with U.S. consumers anticipated to consume nearly 9% more beef this year than in 2015.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), contractor to the Beef Checkoff, oversees the iconic "Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner" brand. By investing dollars in crucial market research, the checkoff is driving beef demand.
To better understand foodservice beef trends, the brand conducts an annual foodservice volumetric study. The study measures operator purchases and distributor sales of beef and other proteins across all foodservice operating segments. Findings revealed that beef is the most prominent ingredient at these establishments, accounting for 16% of total foodservice food and non-alcohol purchases.
Still, for the beef industry to remain successful, it must recognize what consumers want, the checkoff said, explaining, “They hold the purchasing power; therefore, it is essential the beef industry responds to their requests and decision-making patterns.”
NCBA monitors and measures consumer attitudes on a monthly basis. Findings show that the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner brand” has had an extremely positive impact. According to the checkoff-funded Consumer Beef Tracker, people are more likely to feel positive about beef and more likely to eat beef more often when they are aware of the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner” brand.
Research has also shown that consumers trust producers to deliver a superior beef product. Over the last decade, cattle producers have responded to trends calling for higher-quality beef, delivering more USDA Prime- and Choice-graded beef products. The Choice/Prime percentage moved from 55% in 2007 to 79% in 2018 and is projected to reach 80% this year, NCBA relayed.
“With the checkoff gaining insight and data into market trends and consumer interests, the beef industry is better equipped to meet purchasing trends. Beef Checkoff research is identifying market opportunities and utilizing dollars to promote beef within different segments of the foodservice and retail chain,” NCBA said.
The bottom line? Consumers want beef.
“From burgers to high-end steaks, restaurant owners recognize the economic incentive of offering beef on their menus. Producer-invested-checkoff dollars are arming the beef industry with insider knowledge so beef can continue to reign,” the checkoff noted.
U.S. fighting for global presence
Demand for beef is also on the rise across the globe, and while the U.S. will have to fight for market share, consumers across the world have made it clear that they are hungry for U.S. beef.
“Foreign market development is one of the most significant ways the beef checkoff drives demand for beef. Competition is fierce on the global stage, and the checkoff works diligently to persuade foreign countries that U.S. beef is their best choice,” the checkoff reported.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a subcontractor to the beef checkoff, carries out this mission. From attending international food events and conducting training sessions to working with retailers and encouraging restaurants, USMEF’s initiatives have greatly expanded the presence of U.S. beef in key countries.
For example, South Korea has become one of the leading markets for U.S. beef. In fact, beef exports to Korea in 2018 increased 30% year over year in volume and 43% in value, increasing from $526 million in 2017 to $1.75 billion in 2018.
“A big factor contributing to this gain was Costco officially converting its imported chilled beef selection from Australian to 100% U.S. beef,” the checkoff said, adding that the multiyear effort by USMEF has resulted in a wider selection of U.S. beef cuts being available to consumers.
USMEF has also established the Diamond Plus Precious Gourmet Selection awards, which encourage restaurants in Taiwan to serve and promote U.S. beef. USMEF first presented these awards in 2018 and will continue to honor 20 deserving restaurants each year.
“By creating an incentive for Taiwanese restaurants to feature high-quality U.S. beef, the Diamond Plus Precious awards are helping U.S. beef establish a stronger foothold in that country while also providing consumers clear and accessible ways to learn about the best restaurants offering these products,” USMEF said.
USMEF's office in Tokyo, Japan, has launched a social media campaign to promote U.S. beef while also encouraging consumer participation. On Instagram, a photo-based social media platform, USMEF has been asking consumers to share their experiences with U.S. beef at home and at restaurants. Individuals who share photos of U.S. beef “pound steak” are eligible for prizes. The pound steak campaign was followed by a “My Pound Steak” Instagram event to further encourage photo sharing of this product. This social media effort is bringing U.S. beef to a platform where consumers are most active.
“The number of active Instagram users now exceeds 29 million in Japan – up 150% from a year ago,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF director in Japan. “Realizing the popularity of social media and how consumers are using it to make decisions on what to eat, USMEF will keep focusing on these kinds of activities to more widely and effectively convey information on U.S. beef.”
With programs like these in place, the checkoff said it is introducing high-quality beef to consumers who may never have enjoyed it before.
“Visibility is key, and U.S. beef producers recognize that investing dollars in these efforts is necessary to maintain and drive demand so prices can remain strong even during more challenging times,” the checkoff said.
This piece originally appeared on Feedstuffs, a Supermarket News sister website.