Cargill consumer research shows gap in protein knowledge

Meat: News Roundup from the September 2019 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

Consumers aren’t as aware of beef’s high protein content as one may assume, according to a recent Nielsen survey.

Cargill is redesigning its ground beef packaging to better communicate the protein content, using this information and other insights gained from its latest consumer research.

This lack of understanding wasn’t surprising, said Glendon Taylor, Cargill’s marketing manager for case ready and ground beef. By analyzing the grocery industry as a whole, Cargill found that beef alternative products often have claims about its protein content on the packaging, whereas these claims aren’t often communicated on beef packaging.

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“It wasn’t shocking to us, but we found the reason and that was due to the fact that there was a lapse in communication from the existing beef industry to consumers,” said Taylor.

Cargill conducted this research in an effort to engage with both consumers and producers to improve its packaging, focusing on its Our Certified line of ground beef products.

“We wanted to make an informed decision about how to best move forward with the new packaging change that really captured consumer perceptions about what labels or what claims should be on packaging,” said Taylor.

One of the key findings deals with how protein content is communicated on the packaging. When it comes to purchasing decisions, 67 per cent of consumers surveyed find the statement “18 grams of protein” to be more motivating than the statement “excellent source of protein.” Although consumers may not be aware that beef is a considerable source of protein, this illustrates that they do wish to better understand the product’s nutritional content.

Two studies comprised this research, the first of which surveyed thousands of Canadian and American consumers on their attitudes towards beef and the factors they consider when purchasing beef products.

“From that survey we gathered so much feedback from consumers that had purchased beef in the last month, and we were able to provide an extensive amount of insights to help lead direction on course of a number of different paths,” said Taylor.

Further examining the planned redesign of the Our Certified packaging, Cargill surveyed hundreds of consumers through their mobile devices while shopping at retailers carrying Cargill products.

“On their phone they would have the new design that we were proposing, and they were able to make comparisons between the two and see what it would be like if the new packaging design was in the (beef) case and how it would compare against the existing one,” he said. “The Our Certified packaging survey revealed that consumers might not understand today that there is a considerable amount of protein in ground beef, or any other beef product for that matter.”

Cargill was able to use these findings to inform the claims included on the new Our Certified label. In addition to claims of being 100 per cent pure with no artificial ingredients, consumers also indicated that price, freshness and where the beef was produced are important factors in making purchasing decisions.

This research provided insight on other opportunities for Cargill to explore in terms of the consumer’s purchasing experience and product education.

“As it relates to Canada, consumers are very aware or they understand what the gradings mean, but in the United States it’s not as consistent — whether it’s USDA Select or Choice product or Prime, that education drops off considerably,” said Taylor.

Taylor said Cargill plans to explore more of the opportunities highlighted through this research with its customers.

About the author

Field editor

Piper Whelan is a field editor with Canadian Cattlemen. She grew up on a purebred, Maine-Anjou ranch near Irricana, Alta., and previously wrote for Top Stock, Western Horse Review, and various beef breed publications.

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