Time for U.S. Pork to Evolve

Pork Scallopini
( National Pork Board )

Jarrod Sutton has seen various iterations in pork marketing during his 18 years at the National Pork Board. With millennials now outnumbering baby boomers, Sutton sees forces of change, and feels it’s imperative to understand how those forces create challenges and opportunities for pork.

“From a millennial standpoint, we have an opportunity to tell them the story, to tell them why it’s safe to cook pork to 145 degrees, what it means, and how it benefits them,” says Sutton, whose job is to strengthen pork’s position in the marketplace, and continue to open new markets for U.S. pork. “We can talk about juiciness, tenderness and an overall optimal eating experience. We can also talk about nutritional value of loin cuts, which is equally important – this convergence of health and wellness in the food world is for real.”

Jarrod Sutton
Jarrod Sutton

Market Intelligence
Behavioral research shows millennials want to know what’s in their food, and where it comes from. Big names like Walmart and McDonalds are part of that conversation.

“They’ve made public proclamations about how they intend to change their supply chain to effectively address those needs,” Sutton says. “There are great opportunities for us as an industry to evolve and position our product a bit differently than we have in the past.”

The Pork Board is working with MotiveQuest, a research company that essentially listens in on the conversations happening on social media, Sutton explains.

“This group can basically throw a blanket around the internet, set the filters to shake out what conversations are happening and characterize the intent or the emotions behind those conversations,” Sutton says. “If you think about pigs and pork, we looked at the last three years (2015-2017) to learn how people are talking about pigs and pork.”

Celebrate and connect
Of course, lots of folks talk about bacon, he points out, and that skews everything. “But as an industry, we need to appreciate the loyalty that consumers have to bacon,” he says. “There’s great momentum on bacon and we want to continue to celebrate that.”

People also talk about pork and pork loin products. Some people celebrate pork, saying it’s a great eating experience and they’re going to make it a regular part of their meal rotation.
“When you have digital advocates, authentically and genuinely sharing in those social platforms of how to do this right and deliver an optimal eating experience, there’s power in those messages and we want to amplify them,” Sutton says. “They can do a much better job of telling their friends and neighbors how to cook pork right than we can, and be more effective at it, too.”

He says there are a significant number of conversations on the other side, too, and those attitudes require attention and focus. Sutton says the Pork Board wants to “play more of a role of marrying up the people who are doing it right with those who aren’t. There’s a great opportunity for us in the digital space to connect those folks together.

Consistent messaging
“We also need to ensure as an industry that we’re consistent in how we’re communicating,” he says. “It’s about hitting that mark of 145 degrees with a three minute rest – and understanding the product will have some pink in the center. It’s important how we showcase our products with photography and videos.”

Some people have known the right cooking techniques for pork for a long time. Others, not so much.

“It will be key in our outreach to the pork brands to make sure in that pre-competitive space, that we’re consistent in how we’re showcasing the product and how we’re communicating to folks how to hit that optimal temperature for the best eating experience,” Sutton adds. “By investing in this type of data generation and analysis, there’s great value in the long-term to set this up for success. I’m excited about what that opportunity presents.”