Consumer buying behavior is changing drastically and quickly as novel coronavirus (COVID-19) fears have people rushing to grocery stores.
There is absolutely no shortage of meat in the U.S., assures Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board.
“We look at the daily scheduled hog harvest and we're hitting just shy of half a million pigs per day. As critical infrastructure, processing plants are running six days a week, taking time to do their cleaning every night as they always do,” Even says. “And that's really helped to get the product out to consumers.”
However, empty meat cases have consumers worried.
“The best way I would describe it is that consumer behavior changed drastically in a very short period of time and the normal supply chain takes a little bit longer than that to adjust,” says Angie Krieger, vice president of domestic marketing at the National Pork Board. “There's ample supplies of meat products. We're working with retailers to help connect them to other suppliers as needed.”
Pork that normally would go into the restaurant supply chain is now making its way to retail. It’s hard to just flip that switch automatically, she says. The Pork Checkoff is doing everything possible to keep the shelves full of pork so consumers can take it home and enjoy it.
Stretch your food dollars with pork
In addition to keeping pork on the shelves, the Pork Checkoff domestic marketing team met over the weekend to adjust consumer messaging and ramp up resources in the marketplace.
With additional mouths at home and more meals to make, consumers are concerned about stretching their food dollars in this time of uncertainty.
“The primary area that we're focusing our messages around is the versatility of pork,” Krieger says. “We've got some great tips on how to cook once and eat twice (or more) with pork. We are encouraging people to think about pork loins, pork butts – bigger pieces of meat they may not be accustomed to buying but are now because they have more folks at home.”
The National Pork Board is pushing out content on YouTube with creators on a variety of topics from how to break a whole pork loin into several meals to fun ways to cook a pork loin three different ways to how to cook a pork shoulder once and then use for three meals for your family.
Engage the family around pork
Another key pork message is how convenient and varied pork preparation can be for families – whether it’s grilling, using the Instant Pot or being able to throw something in the crock pot or oven and walk away and not think about it until it’s ready to eat.
“Not only do we want to make sure they have good access to simple and easy pork preparation ideas, but we want to make sure that they enjoy the pork that they've purchased,” Krieger says.
With four kids of her own at home now, she’s looking for ways to make her family happy about meal ideas. She’s also looking for ways to involve her kids more in preparing meals with pork.
“Pork is family-friendly. It can be the protein that the family gathers around during a very difficult, anxiety-ridden time,” Krieger says.
What do consumers want?
The domestic marketing team continually monitors key pork search terms through an ongoing partnership with Google. Pork topics consumers are searching for validate the key messages the Pork Checkoff is pushing about pork’s versatility, ease of preparation and a protein that can stretch their food dollars.
“We are seeing an uptick in people searching how to cook or looking for recipes,” Even says. “That’s a real sign that many Americans are actively learning how to cook at home again and Pork Checkoff is there as a committed resource to consumers.”
Over the last few years, the National Pork Board has shifted to increase its digital and social assets for consumers. During that time, they’ve worked with many food bloggers and YouTube creators to promote pork. Krieger says they plan to re-engage with these influencers during this time who are looking to stay connected to consumers despite restaurants closing because of COVID-19.
“We have pivoted hard and fast,” Even says. “The domestic marketing team completely rebuilt our marketing strategy for Q1 and Q2 last week and started pushing out information to be current and relevant for what consumers need now.”
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