Mike Whittemore, Head of Trade Marketing for EBLEXMike Whittemore, head of trade marketing at EBLEX, explains how adapting to the needs of today’s consumers is key to ensuring traditional cuts aren’t consigned to history

The image of the traditional nuclear family gathered round the dinner table each evening has long been consigned to black and white movies made in the 1950s. It’s an image of a by-gone era.

Why should that be of concern to those of us in the meat industry? Because the changing demographics have an impact on how and when we eat, the foods we choose and the time and effort we are willing to devote to preparing meals - and, arguably, no more so than in the meat category.

The reality is that the way our product is presented and marketed has not kept pace with general lifestyle changes and no longer matches today’s consumer demand. This can be seen especially in the traditional roasting joints category, which, despite the fact that consumers love the product and enjoy the taste, has been in steady decline. 

Today, about 60% of households in Britain are made up of only one or two people; 75 per cent of households are made up of three people or less. These changes are happening at both ends of the lifestage spectrum: younger consumers are delaying starting a family while our increasing longevity means more retired households and empty nesters. Changing family situations (with single parent households, for example, increasing in number) also contribute to a changing demographic landscape.

Add to that mix considerations such as that we spend less time preparing meals, we demand better value for money, we’re conscious about eating healthily, we’re trying harder to avoid waste and we begin to understand the dynamics which are increasingly shaping our category.

To take roasting joints as an example, in less than 10 years, volume sales of beef and lamb roasting joints have fallen by 26 per cent and 32 per cent respectively.

The reason is not because people don’t like the actual product – its taste and all of the other positive attributes – the reason lies in the fact we aren’t marketing and presenting the product in a way that appeals to today’s consumers. They don’t want a huge roasting joint from the topside, silverside or think flank; what they want are smaller joints that are simple and quick to prepare, represent great value for money, don’t entail any waste, are of consistent quality and full of flavour to deliver the great taste everyone still associates with a roast.

It was precisely with all these factors in mind that we at EBLEX set about to develop a range of joints which are ideal for smaller households and which will help bring consumers back into the roasting category. We’ve called the range The Carvery and each of the cuts in the range is positioned as quick, tasty and modern.

Our starting point was to apply alternative butchery techniques to produce a range of innovative cuts and products that would appeal to today’s shoppers demanding quick, tasty and convenient meal solutions. The great added benefit of this work is that the range of cuts developed delivers greater consistency in quality which in turn gives consumers more confidence in the beef and lamb cuts they choose.

The fact that we were able also to maximise the overall value of the total carcase has produced benefits for the whole of the supply chain, not least of which is improved retail margins.

The new Carvery range of mini roasting joints – one of a number of new cut ranges we’ve introduced - can also be tailored to complement individual businesses and different retail formats. The range has consumer appeal whether as part of a main weekly shop, for the mid-week top-up or the impulse purchase of ‘something-for-this-evening’s-dinner’.

In trials already carried out – both in the retail sector and also in the foodservice arena where they have proved a real menu enhancement – there has been such a positive reaction that we’re confident this approach will bring shoppers back into the roasting category and halt the decline in an area which is crucial in driving retail basket value.

For those who’d like to know more about our approach to creating modern appeal to a traditional product and at the same time adding value throughout the supply chain, you’ll find full details here or simply contact me or any of my team at EBLEX.

This article first appeared in the April issue of Meat Management. 

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