Whelan: Canada Beef focuses on meal prep as retail demand surges

The checkoff-funded organization shifts marketing efforts to help Canadians enjoy more beef at home, reassure consumers on food safety efforts

As more Canadians are cooking at home and retail demand for beef stays strong, consumers are looking for recipes.

Canada Beef has shifted its promotional efforts in response to the COVID-19 crisis, focusing on the recent increase in demand for beef and opportunities for Canadians to serve their families more beef. In facing this situation, the organization has seen a significant rise in consumer engagement.

“With current self-isolation practices, consumers have stocked up on beef and are now at home, cooking in their kitchens more than ever. They are needing recipes, inspiration, distraction and cooking know-how information,” said Michael Young, president of Canada Beef.

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Funded by the Canadian Beef Cattle Checkoff, this organization promotes Canadian beef in domestic and foreign markets, focusing on market development. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Canada Beef created an advertising campaign to be launched in March, focusing on the high-quality taste of Canadian beef and in the trust consumers can place in Canadian beef producers and production systems.

“Canada Beef has modified the campaign to emphasize those elements that speak to home preparation and build culinary skills,” said Young. The campaign features a mix of broadcast, online and social media advertising, including television advertising with lifestyle channels such as Food Network Canada and Home & Garden TV.

With more than 93,000 consumers accessing Canada Beef’s website for its culinary resources, web traffic has increased by 66 per cent. Compared to March 2019, the website saw a 73 per cent increase in new users in March 2020. As well, ThinkBeef’s web traffic increased by more than 13,000 visits in March, compared to February.

Canada Beef has also taken other steps to help reassure consumers at this time. Along with other national commodity groups, it has developed a food safety essentials fact sheet on managing risk and safe food handling at home.

The organization was also part of creating a trade-focused fact sheet on safeguarding Canada’s meat supply, covering the practices currently in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the primary and secondary processing level. In addition to distributing this fact sheet throughout Canada, it has been translated into eight different languages and shared with Canada’s key beef export markets.

Canada Beef is also launching two new videos that “reflect and support the theme of securing Canada’s beef supply from both a producer and a primary processor point of view,” Young explained. “We hope to provide reassurance to Canadians and global customers about the safety of beef and the actions being taken to protect the health of workers to ensure stable beef supply.”

Young noted that while beef demand at retail has risen by 50 to 75 per cent, overall demand in the food service and hospitality sector has shrunk rapidly due to in-house service closures or outright closures, with reports of demand decreasing in various categories by 50 to 90 per cent.

With demand for ground beef particularly high, he doesn’t anticipate this changing any time soon. “The reality is ground beef represents an excellent value that can be used in so many ways,” he said. “One of the areas that we’re seeing a lot of traffic on (the website) is actual recipes using ground beef.”

Regarding concerns that beef demand may decrease if consumers have less to spend at the grocery store, Young highlighted the importance of providing sufficient supply and an assortment of both value and high-end cuts to customers.

“We are working very hard to get the merchandizing solutions to the delivery systems so that they have options on producing, merchandizing and offering different cuts to different levels,” he said.

“We’re going to focus really hard on getting the information to consumers that are looking for it and supporting retail end-user partners with getting the product assortment that they’re looking for.”

About the author

Field editor

Piper Whelan

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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