It’s no surprise that digital use is exploding in all areas of our lives, but pork producers at the World Pork Expo earlier this year heard how that the National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff works with Google to reach consumers and influence meat and food purchases.
In 2017, 31% food and beverage sales were influenced by digital media, said Steve Lerch, Google account executive for Advocacy and Associations. That’s $13 billion of a $43 billion industry.
“We’re at a time in our country where there is more advertisement than ever. We are inundated with ads,” Lerch says. “So it’s so incredibly important to find the vehicles and platforms your customers like and that your customers value.”
“Marketing is hard, and it’s changed. That’s why we are here,” Lerch says.
Lerch and his team are working with the Pork Board, and other industry associations to target the right type of audience at the right time, monitoring current trends and using data to propel food information.
Here’s three food trends they have identified that will be affecting how pork is consumed in 2019 and beyond:
1. Power and Misunderstanding of Protein
People are shifting more towards fitness and strength, and away from focusing on weight loss and being skinny. “That’s really significant. It changes the way we talk to consumers and it changes the way we help consumers envision their goals,” he says.
If 63% of people who exercise pay attention to how much protein they eat, there is new opportunity for pork.
“That’s great, right? We sell protein products, people are paying attention to how much protein they eat. That’s wonderful. The problem is people don’t understand protein. 40% of people think there is more protein in peanut butter than in eggs,” Lerch says.
2. Semi-Homemade Dinner Options
Americans are eating on the go more than ever. Many food companies are changing products and packaging to accommodate this lifestyle. But while there is less time for family dinners, Lerch says their research shows that consumers still value home-cooked meals.
The majority of American families eat meals together less than five days a week, but two of five American parents consider themselves aspiring chefs. “They want to cook those in-depth fancy meals for their family. They value that time in the kitchen, they value that time sitting at the table. They want to provide that to their kids. It just looks different,” Lerch says. “As marketers, we have to know how to adapt to that.”
Instant pots, meal kits and video recipes are very appealing. And since 59% of 25- to 34-year-olds cook with either their smartphones or tablets as an immediate resource, it can help ensure pork is cooked properly.
“It allows people to make these home cooked meals, these family dinners, but in a fraction of the time,” he adds. “It’s the new American family dinner. It just looks different. As marketers, we need to make our product fit into that area.”
3. Functional Foods and Stock Management
Digital technology has really changed the way we do things—customers are not just influenced by product packaging in the store. They are engaging with your food brand long before ever walk into the store or the online retailer.
With so much information available at our fingertips, consumers do about a 10-fold amount of research about food.
“Two of three people in the U.S. say their meals are planned at home—not a crazy stat,” Lerch says. “But they are no longer going to the meat counter to ask questions—they are shopping and gathering information by phone.”
As more people turn to websites and social media for information about how to cook and what ingredients to select, consumers need to be met in different ways.
“It’s not enough if it tastes good, is high in protein—what does that protein do? It gives you energy, fuels you, helps you through your day. It’s about connecting the product to the function that is more important to consumers than it ever has been before.”
There is also a rise in consumers asking questions about products they’ve already have. “There was a 28% increase last year in people asking how long various foods last,” Lerch says. “One of the most challenging and profitable things any marketer can do is to market to people already buying the product. Getting someone new to buy pork is hard. Getting someone who buys pork once a week to buy it twice a week, well, that’s hard too, but it’s real profitable.”
Sometimes, it’s as easy as being useful to your consumers, and making sure they know how to use your product in the best possible way, Lerch says.