Shawn Darcy, the Associate Director of Market Research at NCBA

(Shawn Darcy) I’m Shawn Darcy, the Associate Director of Market Research at NCBA. I was at the KLA Convention this week talking about the evolving consumer, or today’s consumer mindset of beef and what that means for us. Really, it starts with the access to information that consumers have, and that’s more than it really ever has been. We see that 70% of consumers have access to a smart phone; over 40% have access to a tablet. All of this is giving them instant access; it’s always with them, always on their purse in order to get the information that they need. As a result of that, we’ve seen Deloitte put out a survey a year ago now that talked about how consumers in addition to taste, price, convenience, are taking the factors such as social responsibility, transparency, the experience they have while eating in addition to all of those factors. What that means for beef is, they’re filling in those gaps that they’re not knowledgeable about with misperceptions. That’s where the Beef Check Off has really come in. We’ve seen that a third of consumers, only a third of consumers are familiar with where their food comes from, but yet over three quarters are concerned about how cattle are raised. As a result of that, we want to make sure that we’re being part of that conversation. A lot of those misperceptions that exist are actually things that are happening in everyday beef. For instance, misperception is that trapped cattle are treated inhumanely. The family isn’t involved as much. There’s not a veterinarian oversight. All things are really happening with all of beef that’s produced all day. If we’re able to get that message out by creating videos and infographics and help educate consumers on that message and they are really receptive to that message, and it’ll help us get that talking point out. Really what we see is the experts that are doing all of the raising of the cattle are who consumers want to hear from. Whether that’s in a blog form that we might host on, or getting through our MBA program and being a spokesperson on behalf of the beef industry, or even being in active in your communities. Consumers want to hear from the farmer and rancher. They want to hear from a pen rider who’s in a feedyard. They want to hear from the nutritionist, the veterinarian, and those different experts in each sector of the beef industry that we have. Quality of beef is an interesting topic. We actually did a research project over that in the past year. What we saw is that with quality of beef, consumers are still going over the product attributes. Things like taste, tenderness, juiciness of the actual steak-eating experience are how consumers define quality when they think of beef. We are starting to see things local and grass-fed creep into that conversation, not nearly as much as those product attributes. A lot of that is again, going back to that experience, or how that product is raised and those perceptions that they have. Those perceptions around the family involvement, the open pastures, how the cattle are treated, which are all things that are happening with beef that we’re raising everyday. Things that we want to look back and promote for all beef, and that it’s a quality experience for all beef.

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