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Consumers buying more 'clean' meat despite costs

Consumers buying more 'clean' meat despite costs

Demand for "clean" meat products keeps growing, despite higher price points compared with conventional meat, according to data from Nielsen Perishables Group.

Overall, meat prices have dropped 5% in the past year, but meat prices for some "clean" claims — which include natural, minimally processed, organic, antibiotic-free and hormone-free — are up, Mikael Olson, Nielsen's associate client manager for meat, told SN.

“The fun part is when we look at a lot of the clean label options in our data they kind of break that law of demand, where in a lot of these cases price is up year over year, which should mean volume comes down. The opposite is happening. So price is going up, volume is going up still,” said Olson.

“People are going to buy [clean meat] even if you charge a little bit more,” he added.

While conventional products still make up 85% or more of meat sales, sales of "clean" meat are sizeable. For example, sales of grass-fed beef totaled $277 million in the last year.

“You talk to anyone about a $277-million opportunity and they’re not going to say, ‘Ah, that’s niche. That’s minor. That’s a fraction of what I care about.’ That’s not true. Grass-fed is $277 million. Huge number,” said Olson.

A lot of that growth is coming from private label ground beef.

“It’s not necessarily all targeted to the most premium, the most brand-driven consumer. It can be a highly accessible product that just meets a certain type of consumer’s need, and that certain type of consumer has a lot of spending power, to the tune of a quarter billion dollars,” said Olson.

Not all claims have performed equally well across all meat categories. For example, sales of natural beef and pork are down year-over-year.

“The interesting thing is when you look at products with a natural claim on it in the other proteins — chicken, turkey, lamb, veal — it’s growing. So it’s not like the claim of natural is dead across the meat case. It’s just for the case of beef, it’s not resonating as much,” said Olson.

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