New Report Assesses Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Behaviors

December 10, 2020

Family Dinner Ground Beef

The number of consumers who say they intend to eat beef at least weekly increased from 67 percent to 72 percent compared to 2019, and consumer positive perceptions of beef reached 70 percent for the first time1, according to a new report released by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association(NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, that examines the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on consumer attitudes, behaviors and perceptions.  

“The impact of the pandemic has been transformative in every corner of our economy,” said Buck Wehrbein, 2020 NCBA Federation Division Chair.  “The good news is that consumers are choosing beef more often as they adapt to cooking more at home.”  

The report outlines what consumer behaviors have changed, what behaviors may be permanent and how the beef industry has and continues to respond. With support from the 44 state beef councils and the Beef Checkoff program, current market and consumer research provides insight into the past year and helps inform programming and response in order to keep beef as the top protein choice for consumers.

“NCBA’s checkoff-funded market research program allows us to evaluate and understand the consumer landscape, especially as its dynamics continue to shift,” NCBA Senior Director of Market Research Shawn Darcy said. “As a result, this helps all checkoff programs be more efficient, whether through promotion, education or information distribution.”

With unemployment rates climbing higher during the pandemic than they have in decades, 65 percent of consumers remain very concerned about the impact of COVID-19, especially with its effects onto the economy. Despite not knowing how this pandemic will continue to shape the consumer landscape, the “State of the Consumer” report provides valuable information to help the beef industry better understand the quickly changing environment.  Key take-aways include: 

  • Online ordering for both groceries and meal ordering is likely here to stay. It is expected online ordering and delivery will grow at a more rapid pace than originally projected due to COVID-19. Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., managed by NCBA, will continue to complete first-of-its-kind exploratory e-commerce marketing campaigns to help the supply chain accelerate the sales of fresh beef in this rapidly changing environment.
  • Consumers are cooking more meals at home now than prior to COVID-19. This means they are searching for information to help them cook meals at home. Though expected to continue for the short term, a long-term shift is difficult to assess. NCBA will continue to utilize a variety of techniques by pushing out cooking information and recipe inspiration through digital, social media and traditional media platforms and leveraging impactful, high-profile influencers or thought leaders to teach consumers how to cook.
  • Consumers are spending more time at home and online than prior to COVID-19. Along with that comes the rise of more TV and moving-streaming platforms and the decline of in-person movie theater watching experience, which could signal a long-term shift in consumers using more media “inside of the home” compared to “out-of-home.” NCBA will continue to utilize a variety of marketing platforms to continuously reach the consumer through paid, earned and owned digital, social and traditional media platforms. 
  • Currently, consumers are more focused on spending their money on essential needs, such as groceries, household supplies and personal care and cleaning products. This will likely adjust back at some point; it is just a matter of when. NCBA, as a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, will continue to look for opportunities to remind consumers that beef is the classic comfort food that they want as the centerpiece of their dinner, especially as we move into the holiday season.
  • Positive consumer perceptions of beef and beef production increased during the pandemic and will likely remain higher for the next several months. Consumers may return to expressing concerns about food production when focus evolves from current concerns. NCBA will continue programs that educate consumers about beef and beef production. 

  • Beef demand has remained strong to-date. Consumers increased weekly beef eatings and were willing to pay more for the product. With strong domestic consumer demand-building programs Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner., and other demand building programs, NCBA will keep focused on keeping this strong demand going through innovated checkoff-funded programs. 

The full “State of the Consumer” Report, with detailed statistics and graphs can be found here.

  1. Consumer Beef Tracker; Jan 2019-September 2020

About the Beef Checkoff
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen's Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.

About NCBA, a Contractor to the Beef Checkoff
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. The Beef Checkoff Program is administered by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board, with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.