Meat Industry Keeps The Faith

Posted: October 07, 1987

The meat industry, it seems, has convinced itself, after much research and many expensive consumer surveys, that if it is to survive in the meat-eating world of tomorrow - if indeed there is one - "IT MUST HAVE FAITH!" Faith Popcorn. She's a "trend analyst" from New York and founder of Brain Reserve, a New York-based marketing firm.

"What," you ask, "is a trend analyst?" Well, you see, that's kind of a new kind of somebody somewhat akin to a "consultant" who comes from out-of- town (usually New York) who somehow knows more about what's going on in the world-west-of-the-Hudson than anybody else in the world. Certainly more than anybody else in the world outside New York. But then, you see, to a New Yorker, the world outside New York is a very small place, so it's no big thing to know everything there is to know about it.

Faith, in her out-of-town-analytic-wisdom, has "clearly identified more than a dozen trends that could be keys to meat product success," that "could (not necessarily will) mean better times ahead for beef, veal, pork, processed meats, and lamb."

Three of those trends, according to Popcorn, are: 1. "A return to the way things were" (the tradition trend) 2. "An increasing popularity of 'Mom' foods" (the nostalgia trend) and 3. "Women leaving the workplace for a life at home with the kids" (the homecoming trend).

At first pop-pop-pop-, those trends don't sound half bad to this nostalgic old cornhusker from Nebraska. But, as more of Faith's "trends" explode on the brain like so many kernels of popcorn in hot fat, they go off in so many different directions they make my head feel like a popcorn popper.

In spite of the "homecoming trend" with mom spending more time at home, she will not, predicts Popcorn, be cooking any "mom" food. No! There is also a "convenience trend." "Convenience," according to Faith, "will be a major factor affecting the meat business in the future.

"You don't need to come up with any new (consumer) recipes," she advises the meat industry, "nobody will be cooking.

"You may have a whole generation who doesn't know how to cook meat. The automatic kitchens of the future will be used only to heat prepared foods."

No long simmering soups, and stews, and pot roasts, filling the whole house with marvelous memory-making smells of warmth and love like those I remember when my Mom used to cook.

Tomorrow's "mom" will be far too sophisticated to care much about cooking, but she does want quality (the premium/quality trend) and she will be willing to pay a premium price to get it.

"Meat price," according to Faith, "will not be a factor in the future.

"People still believe that price is the proof of quality," so sayeth Popcorn. They want something special (the indulgence trend) and if you charge more for something, they think they're getting it.

"You'll have savvy consumers wanting more finished products and with the bucks to pay for them." So sock it to 'em! But, don't tell them where it came

from.

"First and foremost," Faith warns the meat industry, "don't get too close to the animal." Don't put on any cutting demonstrations or anything like that. (There goes my life's work.) People don't like it when meat looks too much like the animal it came from. "It's gross."

People would rather believe that pork chops come from a plastic package rather than Miss Piggy. Meat as it is now presented may be "too savage - too close to the animal," according to Faith. Nobody wants pork chops that come

from "too close" to the pig.

Speaking of beef: "People are not going to buy a 14 ounce steak anymore. Forget it. They want to return to beef, but in a thinner, smaller (the leaner trend) and easier (time management trend) way. They want to experiment (the adventure trend) with new cuisines and beef is a wonderful way of doing that. They want something special (indulgence trend again) and beef tastes so good."

No wonder the meat industry has Faith. She gives the kind of trendy advice that sounds like it should make a lot of CENTS. Make it "smaller," "more convenient." Package it prettier. Don't tell anybody where it came from or how to cook it and - most importantly - charge a bundle for it. If it's too cheap, today's "savvy," highly-educated consumers might think it is ''cheap!"

Did you get all that? Good!

Forgive me if I go laughingly, if not gracefully, into obsolescence, but I really believe Popcorn is about the funniest thing to come along since ''PEANUTS."

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