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Meat Conference
Power of Meat meat case.JPG Michael Browne
Nearly all American households (98.4%) purchased meat in 2020, and 43% of Americans now buy more meat than before the pandemic.

Meat sales reach record highs in 2020, increasing by 19.2%

The annual Power of Meat report shows cooking at home and new meal opportunities driving meat purchases

Americans are buying more meat than ever as increased time at home during the pandemic sent meat grocery sales soaring by 19.2% from 2019 to 2020 (up from just 1% growth in 2019) for a total of $82.5 billion in sales, according to IRI data in the 2021 Power of Meat report released Tuesday. 

The annual Power of Meat study was conducted by 210 Analytics on behalf of FMI—The Food Industry Association and the Meat Institute’s Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education and released during the American Meat Conference.

Nearly all American households (98.4%) purchased meat in 2020, and 43% of Americans now buy more meat than before the pandemic — primarily because they are preparing more meals at home. 

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More than three-quarters of shoppers changed something about their meat purchases during the pandemic. Driven by dinner and lunch, 43% of shoppers bought more meat and poultry. The increased demand during lunchtime was driven by the work-and-school-from-home trend. Additionally, four in 10 shoppers bought differently, whether different types (42%), different cuts (40%) or different brands (45%). The biggest drivers of buying differently are looking for better value, cooking more meals and fewer store trips.

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The proportion of meals prepared at home peaked at 89% in April 2020 and remained at 84% in December, considerably above pre-pandemic levels and particularly impacting Millennials who were previously most likely to eat out. 

“Shoppers are cooking more at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their confidence in cooking and preparing meat has increased,” said Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods for FMI—The Food Industry Association. “Further analysis also shows convenient meal solutions are key and that food retailers have opportunities to provide more choices, along with more information and education on consumer priorities like nutrition and meal preparation – building up what we call consumers’ Meat IQ.” 

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Supermarkets continued their reign as the biggest outlet for meat and poultry purchases. Supermarkets have high primary shopper conversion and are a destination for secondary shoppers who switch stores when buying meat. Online shopping received a big pandemic boost, with 56% of shoppers having purchased groceries online in 2020. Additionally, occasional online orders made way for steadier purchase patterns. Meat also landed in online baskets much more frequently, with 31% of all meat shoppers having ordered meat online, up from 19% the year prior. Fresh meat trails frozen in online purchases, with the exception of fresh chicken. Given that 50% of online shoppers regularly start with their past purchase history, winning from the first click is important.

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The number of meat shoppers who purchased groceries online grew 40% in 2020, and the majority of online purchasers (59%) expect to continue purchasing about the same amount online in 2021, suggesting food shopping habits may have changed permanently.

Americans are also embracing new cooking methods (ownership of air fryers increased 24%) and turning to digital sources for recipe inspiration (YouTube use is up 50%) and promotions (consulting digital circulars for promotions increased 33%).

According to the report, three out of every four Americans agree meat belongs in healthy, balanced diets (up by nearly 20% since 2020), and 94% say they buy meat because it provides high-quality protein. 

“Americans feel better than ever about choosing meat as part of healthy, balanced diets,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “With COVID-19 deepening demand for convenient, affordable food that tastes good and matches Americans’ values, meat fits the bill.”

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