Consumers shifting down again — from ready-to-serve to fresh meat

Consumers shifting down again — from ready-to-serve to fresh meat
By Janie Gabbett on 3/9/2009

— The shift from foodservice to retail over the past several months is
giving way to another shift as consumers are increasingly purchasing
fresh meat instead of more expensive heat-and-serve entrees, according
to industry executives attending the Annual Meat Conference here this

“People are finding they have more time on their hands than money,”
Paragon Economics President Steve Meyer told attendees in a
presentation on Sunday. Meyer told Meatingplace he is hearing about the shift from both processors and retailers.

Attendees interviewed by Meatingplace agreed with Meyer’s
observation. Mike Townsley, president of Bob Evans Farms food products
division, said industry statistics are already bearing out the fact
that the ready-to-serve segment is shrinking.

Bob Evans, like Tyson Foods and Hormel Foods, offers heat-and-serve
entrees such as pot roast, pork roast and cooked chicken dishes. In
fact, these types of products generally were being praised as sales
drivers in the industry just a year ago.

Townsley said he is seeing consumers switching to fresh meat for
the center of the plate, but still buying ready-made side dishes to
serve with it.

A Tyson Foods manager agreed that heat-and-serve entrée sales are
giving way to raw product sales, but said Tyson is not changing its
strategy. “Moms are still busy,” he noted.

Maverick Ranch Vice President Charlie Moore said he is hearing the
same thing from his retail customers. He said heat-and-serve entrees,
like natural meat products, are suffering from their higher price
points as the recession drives consumer decisions.

With so many things to feel bad about in the current economy,
attendees speculated that putting a home-cooked meal on the table is
giving people something to feel good about.