Grass-fed beef category sees strong growth

Grass-fed beef is an exciting opportunity that continues to grow across the United States. In fact, according to IRI, from July 2020 to July 2021, sales of fresh grass-fed beef in the United States reached $776 million, a 5% increase over the previous year.

This can be somewhat attributed to COVID-19. During the pandemic, consumers were spending a lot more time cooking at home and finding they enjoyed doing it. When exploring meal options, many have also focused on the health and well-being of their families as well as those of the environment. Grass-fed beef has increasingly become a regular feature in their shopping carts.

While many consumers were initially put off by the taste of grass-fed beef and poultry on the market, citing a strong mineral flavor, today’s offerings are much improved and championed for their quality and taste. .

“We’re seeing a move upmarket in grass-fed,” said John Tarpoff II, vice president of beef for Northglenn, Colo.-based Niman Ranch. “For too long the grass-fed label alone was good enough, but customers are learning that there are differences in quality and taste between different brands.”

Niman Ranch originally planned to launch its 100% grass-fed program in 2021, focusing primarily on the restaurant community, but with the deleterious impact COVID has had on the restaurant industry, the launch of the business was relatively balanced between catering and retail.

“Our grass-fed food is now offered in many steakhouses, high-end restaurants and select retail establishments nationwide, many of which did not offer grass-fed food prior to our introduction,” Tarpoff said. . “In 2022, we will continue to grow our current business, while focusing on expanding our retail presence, providing the added confidence that our grass-fed beef is enthusiastically endorsed by some of the the country’s most demanding customers. ”

Gain notoriety

Kay Cornelius, general manager of Panorama Organic Grass-Fed Meats, Westminster, Colorado, noted that the demand the category saw last year is sure to continue into 2022.

“It’s fascinating to see the retail side, with demand outpacing supply,” she said. “It’s something we see at Panorama. We can’t get enough steaks and different grinds into consumers’ hands fast enough. »

She noted that with so many consumers drawn to organic, grass-fed beef as a trusted source of their nutritional journey, products like this are becoming increasingly popular.

“The grass-fed beef category is higher in omega 3s, lower in fat, and is a rich source of nutrient-dense protein, and that’s what a lot of people are looking for, whether it’s for weight loss , for their heart or just to take better care of the environment,” she said. “Consumers want to know more about the companies behind these products.”

With that in mind, one of the things Panorama did was put QR codes on their labels so consumers could scan them and get immediate transparency and learn more about the grass-fed process.

Sean Sáenz, senior director of meat and seafood operations for Gelson’s Markets, an Encino, Calif.-based retailer, has seen the grass-fed beef category grow significantly since the pandemic.

“In 2020 we saw an increase in the grass-fed segment, but in 2021 it leveled off considerably, but we’re still running 15-18% from 2019,” he said. “It’s my second biggest growth category behind organic chicken. »

Gelson’s was able to leverage a grass-fed program so they could offer their customers what they wanted on almost every item on the shelf.

“I think it will continue to grow and I see it getting bigger and bigger,” Sáenz said. “The pasture-raised poultry category is also on the rise, and we’re only seeing customers who want to eat healthier and are looking for these types of products to feed their families.”

Rob Williams, Regional Director for Meat & Livestock Australia for North America, noted that in the grass-fed beef industry, True Aussie Beef stands out for its consumer-facing brand story and ability to meet the unique needs of the foodservice and retail industries.

“The United States is Australia’s largest grass-fed beef importer, accounting for 45% of Australia’s chilled grass-fed beef exports,” he said. “American consumers are increasingly interested in grass-fed beef, but grass-fed beef currently only represents 4-5% of the U.S. beef market. We believe there is huge growth potential in the market.

The company’s research shows that American consumers of grass-fed beef are health-conscious, appreciate variety and seek a high-quality product. They associate grass-fed beef with being more natural and of higher quality. They also consider it better for the animal and its personal health.

Dana Ehrlich, CEO and founder of Verde Farms, Woburn, Mass., noted that the company has focused on offering 100% grass-fed beef since its inception in 2005 because he believes consumers should have access to a product that is better for themselves, the environment and the animal.

“We are working with retailers across the country to help them take advantage of the tremendous opportunities that grass-fed beef presents, both on the brand and private label side of the business,” he said. . “Today’s consumer is more informed about their meat choices and we want to ensure that our retail partners are not only meeting buyer demand, but driving sales at the same time. units and additional income.”

Brent Jarvis of US Wellness Meats, Canton, Mo., noted that customers are becoming more aware of the differences between healthier, sustainably raised foods and factory foods.

“There is also a growing concern about chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, GMOs, etc.,” he said. “Sustainable/regenerative farming methods, holistic management and care for soil, water, air and other resources enable farmers to nurture the land so that it is available for future generations.”

On display

At Gelson’s Markets, grass-fed products are marketed in its own module, with a green tray to help it stand out from other beef products, which use a black tray. This helped bring attention to the products, Sáenz noted.

Williams shared that marketing board research shows that the biggest initial triggers for grass-fed beef consumption come from the retail environment. And while ads and websites outside of the store are important, most experts agree that the retail environment is where grass-fed consumers make their decision.

“Consumers see grass-fed beef in the grocery store and rely on their own curiosity and past conversations with family and friends to make their purchasing decision,” he said. “They want to know not only that the animals have been cared for and raised on pasture, but also that grass-fed livestock is sustainable and even betters the planet. They care whether the animals have been given antibiotics or hormones .

Panorama’s Cornelius noted that stores are no longer putting grass-fed products in the corner of displays, but are now displaying them front and center so people who want them can find it.

“What I’ve seen is an increased presence in ready-to-use grass-fed products at eye level,” she said. “We have redesigned our [labels] so it has bright colors and follows the eye to the section so consumers know they can get these items right from their stores.

Retailers have a variety of options to connect with their customers through in-store, online, loyalty, and print programs. Integrating grass-fed beef and appealing attributes into these existing marketing channels is the easiest and most effective way to promote the category.

“Showing consumers how to prepare and enjoy grass-fed beef through demonstrations and recipes is also key, especially recipes that appeal to those on burgeoning diets like keto and paleo,” said Ehrlich. “Cross-promotions developed with other healthier food categories can also be helpful. Not only will retailers benefit from increased consumer awareness of 100% grass-fed and its positive health attributes, but they will also be seen as forward-thinking by embracing customer sentiment and consumer demand. »

More traditional in-store tools, such as checkout dividers, shelf displays, and participation in retailer-specific marketing and promotions, continue to be essential in communicating benefits.

“The digital and social media overlay is integral as more and more consumers rely on these channels to influence their preferences and purchase decision,” Ehrlich said.

Niman Ranch spends quite a bit of time with its retail partners to help them differentiate the company’s grass-fed products from other brands in the market.

“Our retail partners tell this story through traditional means like educational brochures and shelf posters, but also with more creative methods like QR codes on the meat crate that lead consumers to our website for learn more about product differentiators,” Tarpoff said.

Jarvis recommends retailers emphasize the positive qualities of grass-fed meats.

“Grass-fed and pasture-fed foods are nutritious and delicious,” he said. “The higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acids) in grass-fed and grass-finished meats is heart and brain healthy. Additionally, when consumers use their hard-earned money to support sustainable family farms, they help rural communities, small family businesses and the environment.