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A survey of chicken eating behavior in U.S. households by the National Chicken Council showed that purchase frequency and market penetration dropped in 2012, with the biggest slippage occurring in chicken purchased from foodservice restaurants.
Conducted among 1,015 households June 4-5 for the preceding two weeks, the survey was funded by WATT PoultryUSA magazine. The results were presented at the 2012 Chicken Marketing Seminar.
Chicken’s slippage in purchasing frequency and household share comes after these consumption indicators reached 10-year highs in 2011. The 2012 survey showed lower chicken eating frequency for heavy users and a rise in the number of non-eaters.
Shopping behavior for boneless-skinless chicken breasts and tenders, also measured in the survey, showed price playing an important role in purchasing during the two-week survey period.
Consumer survey points to market opportunities
The survey points to opportunities for poultry producers in marketing, sales and product development that would shore up eroding segments and capitalize on areas of market strength. Survey highlights include:
Foodservice eating frequency and share drop
Frequency of eating chicken purchased from retail grocery slipped slightly from 3.6 times in 2011 to 3.4 times in 2012. Eating of chicken purchased from foodservice dropped more dramatically, down from 2.1 times in 2011 to 1.8 times in 2012. See Figure 1: Frequency of eating chicken purchased from retail grocery and foodservice.
Similar weakness was seen in chicken’s market penetration, or share, of households eating foodservice purchased chicken. There was a 5 percentage-point drop in share, down from 73 percent in 2011 to 68 percent. By comparison, the share of households eating chicken purchased from retail grocery was down 3 percentage points from 87 percent to 84 percent.
Fewer heavy users, more non-users
Chicken eating frequency patterns weren’t favorable for producers in 2012. Frequency in the heavy usage category (five or more times in two weeks for retail grocery and foodservice combined) fell from 54 percent to 43 percent. At the same time, the percentage of non-eaters in the combined categories rose from 7 percent to 14 percent. See Figure 2: Patterns of chicken eating frequency, 2010-12.
Weakness in chicken eating frequency was especially evident in the foodservice category. While non-eaters in the retail grocery category rose by 3 percentage points, an even larger increase occurred in non-eaters of foodservice-purchased chicken. The number of households not eating any chicken purchased from foodservice in the two-week period rose by 5 percentage points, from 27 percent to 32 percent. By comparison, the survey showed 16 percent of respondents not eating any chicken purchased from retail grocery in a two-week period in 2012.
Heavy users of foodservice chicken cut back the most
The chicken industry’s most loyal consumers for foodservice chicken ate less in 2012, according to the survey. The percentage of consumers who ate chicken purchased from foodservice more than four times in two weeks dipped from 20 percent to 13 percent. In contrast, heavy users of chicken purchased from retail grocery rose by 1 percentage point to 29 percent.
Frequency and share among generational, demographic groups
Chicken eating frequencies and household shares differed markedly across generational and demographic groups. Following are survey highlights:
Shopping behavior for boneless-skinless breasts and tenders
Consumers were asked about their shopping behavior for fresh, boneless-skinless breasts and tenders and what would cause them to buy more of these products. They reported purchasing behavior that may provide useful marketing insights.
Price shoppers prevail
Forty-one percent of shoppers buy only when chicken breasts and tenders are featured at reduced prices and they stock up on the products. Another 19 percent buy only when the products are featured but they don’t stock up. Nonetheless, a significant segment of consumers (25 percent) buy as these products are needed without too much concern for price.
Demographics play a role in this price shopping behavior. White consumers, for example, buy boneless-skinless breasts and tenders on feature prices in larger numbers and stock up at higher rates (44 percent) than Black and Hispanic consumers (37 percent). Hispanic consumers, on the other hand, are more likely than Whites to buy only when product is featured but not stock up (21 percent versus 17 percent). See Figure 4: How consumers shop for boneless-skinless breasts and tenders by demographic group.
Greatest Generation and Boomer Generation consumers lead as groups that prefer to buy boneless-skinless breasts and tenders at featured prices and stock up (50 percent and 43 percent, respectively), while Millennial Generation consumers are the least likely to do so (32 percent).
Preference for dark cuts
A significant percentage of Black consumers (21 percent) report they rarely, if ever, buy boneless-skinless breasts and tenders, and that’s because of their preference for whole chickens or other parts of the chicken such as legs, leg quarters, thighs or drumsticks. This is in sharp contrast to the 4 percent of Hispanic and White consumers who did not purchase breasts or tenders in the two-week period.
Reasons to buy more chicken breasts and tenders
Consumers rated price as the strongest of reasons to buy more boneless-skinless breasts and tenders. This was the case across all generational and demographic groups.
Convenience was rated as the second-strongest reason to buy more breasts and tenders. Black and Hispanic consumers rated convenience, and other factors such as taste, recipes and uniformity of pieces in packages, as slightly more important factors in their purchasing than White consumers.
Having more nutritional information was rated as the least important of reasons to purchase more boneless-skinless breasts and tenders. Consumers apparently feel they have enough nutritional information about these products.
3 keys to selling more chicken breasts and tenders
Product price, convenience and taste are the top three motivators for consumers to buy more boneless-skinless chicken breasts and tenders, according to the National Chicken Council’s survey of 1,015 households.
Bob Wasiluk, senior product manager, Tyson Foods, said at the Chicken Marketing Seminar that product convenience and taste represent significant opportunities for marketers.
Convenience and taste
“Where pricing is concerned there isn’t a lot that marketers can do other than manage promotional prices of boneless-skinless breasts and tenders. The good news is that two other motivators of purchasing ranked highly in the survey – making the taste better and making the products more convenient,” Wasiluk said.
Flavor profiles that can’t be produced at home
“There is a lot that poultry marketers can do to make breasts and tenders more desirable for the consumer from a flavor standpoint,” he continued. “Flavors introduced in the past have included lemon pepper and barbecue, things that people can do at home. However, there are opportunities in offering consumers flavors that can’t easily be replicated at home. There has been a resurgence of ethnic flavors in foodservice that retailers can take advantage of, including Mediterranean, Caribbean, Asian, Latin American and Indian.
“Many poultry companies are now growing larger birds – often at live weights of 6.5 to 7.5 pounds. So, there is the opportunity to give the consumer what they want as well as take advantage of these live weights with thin-sliced, boneless-skinless breast meat.
“Another marketing opportunity is in highly convenient packaging, including individually wrapping the product so that consumers don’t have to touch the chicken. Still another example is multiple-pouch packaging that allows consumers to use product as they need it.”
Chicken consumption facts:
>> Women are more likely than men to have eaten home-cooked, boneless-skinless breasts or tenders – 89 percent versus 83 percent.
>> Respondents living in the Northeast seem to have a preference for boneless-skinless chicken breasts or tenders prepared at home.
>> Larger households and households with $50,000-plus incomes consume chicken more frequently than counterparts.
>> Consumers in two-person households were less likely to consume chicken outside the home than those residing in either smaller or larger households.
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Figure 1: Combined frequency of eating chicken purchased from retail grocery and foodservice fell from 5.7 times in 2011 to 5.2 times in 2012.
Figure 2. Frequency in the heavy usage category (five or more times in two weeks for retail grocery and foodservice combined) fell from 54 percent to 43 percent.
Figure 3. Market penetration declined across all groups and categories except for Black consumers and purchases from retail grocery
Figure 4. Forty-one percent of the consumers said they buy boneless-skinless breasts and tenders only when on sale and then stock up.
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