Beef Performance at Retail

September 9, 2021

Beef Retail

In this highly competitive retail environment, it is important for retailers to highlight products that drive more dollars to their bottom line. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, conducts various research studies to highlight how different types of proteins and items at the retail stores can increase sales, provide greater margins, and increase the average size of a purchase. One of the studies usually conducted every two years by NCBA are consumer panel studies, which help the market research team learn and understand about consumer trends, popular items, and market intelligence to help NCBA’s external partners grow beef demand and increase retail revenue.

NCBA partnered with NielsenIQ, a syndicated data provider, to conduct a study utilizing their Homescan panel made up of 125,000 consumers. The panel study surveyed retail grocery shoppers and covered three main areas. First, the study asked respondents questions around their shopping habits, including the frequency of retail purchases, average dollar size of purchases, and which type of retail establishment at which the items were purchased. Second, NielsenIQ conducted a “cross-purchase analysis”; this part of the study examined protein purchases, such as beef, chicken, and pork, along with what other types of grocery items purchased at the same time. Lastly, a demographic profile was conducted, asking questions around income level, family-size, and completed level of education. Data and results from the study showed the benefit to retailers of highlighting and featuring beef at the retail level; for example, purchases with beef present increase the average dollar value spent 206% compared to the average basket.1 This increased-sales effect extends to products outside of the fresh meat department, and increases purchases for produce, alcohol, and other grocery items.

NCBA partnered with NielsenIQ, a syndicated data provider, to conduct a study utilizing their Homescan panel made up of 125,000 consumers. The panel study surveyed retail grocery shoppers and covered three main areas. First, the study asked respondents questions around their shopping habits, including the frequency of retail purchases, average dollar size of purchases, and which type of retail establishment at which the items were purchased. Second, NielsenIQ conducted a “cross-purchase analysis”; this part of the study examined protein purchases, such as beef, chicken, and pork, along with what other types of grocery items purchased at the same time. Lastly, a demographic profile was conducted, asking questions around income level, family-size, and completed level of education. Data and results from the study showed the benefit to retailers of highlighting and featuring beef at the retail level; for example, purchases with beef present increase the average dollar value spent 206% compared to the average basket.1 This increased-sales effect extends to products outside of the fresh meat department, and increases purchases for produce, alcohol, and other grocery items.

Diving further into the new panel data on specific beef and other protein products, baskets with beef steaks and roasts average some of the highest sales totals per basket among proteins.  These two beef products average higher basket sales than total chicken.1 Ground beef, on the other hand, have a slightly lower basket average, but it is still higher than baskets containing meat substitutes (such as plant-based burgers).1 When it comes to bringing in dollars to a store’s bottom line, it is a great investment for retailers to advertise and feature beef to attract consumer attention to the protein. In the U.S., at all retail stores, the average consumer spends $154 dollars per year on beef products, compared to $82 for chicken, $73 for pork, and $34 for meat alternatives.2 Looking at individual retailers, club stores, and superstores, shoppers that purchase beef spend more per year at each of the channels in the panel study on average than any other protein.

"When it comes to bringing in dollars to a store’s bottom line, it is a great investment for retailers to advertise and feature beef to attract consumer attention to the protein."

Beef, along with chicken, enjoy the highest market penetration in terms of household purchases for the year. Beef increased its penetration level 1.4%, bringing the total penetration rate to 84%.3 While beef now matches chicken in this metric, beef outperforms other proteins. Compared to pork, beef was purchased by 8% more households in 2020.3 Examining meat alternatives, only 13% of households purchased an alternative protein last year.3 The channels at which beef is purchased spans most types of retail outlets; mass-market superstores stores have the highest penetration rate for beef products, with 78% of consumers who shopped in the channel having purchased a beef product at least once there in 2020.4 Other retail outlets with higher beef penetration rates than other proteins and are competitive with chicken include club stores and premiere grocery stores, which focus on health and wellness. Since beef has a widespread market for consumers, other grocery products bought by beef purchasers are also widespread. 

What other products do consumers buy as they purchase beef? Some of the differences in the Cross-Purchase Analysis for beef arise in the type of and how much beef is bought. Unsurprisingly, common cross-purchase for all beef types are beef seasoning and charcoal, as well as other types of proteins.5 Heavy beef buyers, defined as the top 33% of beef purchasers in the study, typically buy higher than average levels of lobster, bacon, and some produce associated with cookouts, such as corn and potatoes.5 They are also more likely to purchase and enjoy alcohol with their meal; beer, wine, and spirit sales all over-index among this group.5 This speaks to the prevalence of beef at cookouts and shows that there is a positive benefit to featuring beef items, especially during the Summer Grilling Season (Read more on the Summer Grilling Season here). These are just some examples of the cross-purchasing power that beef brings to the retail level; given the fact that the data in the panel study shows that beef is a popular item, it is no surprise that the demographic profile of beef purchasers is diverse.

Beef products are very flexible in terms of meeting consumers needs and protein requirements for a variety of different ethnic and cuisine dishes. Hispanic consumers are likely to purchase beef more often and spend more when purchasing than other consumers, with 32% of Hispanic households reporting to be heavy beef purchasers.6 Other demographic factors that correlate with higher beef purchases include higher levels of education, higher income levels (>$100,000 per year), and larger families.6 Medium and light beef buyers generally tend to be very diverse, with most family types and household incomes experiencing slightly lower beef purchasing levels than heavy beef purchasers.6 Ground beef experiences a wide variety of consumer demographics; income levels have less of an impact on heavy ground beef purchasers than it does on more expensive cuts, such as steak. Households with income >$100,000 only spend, on average, $10 more per year on ground beef products than households with incomes that range from $30,000 to $39,000.6 Although there are slight demographic correlations in heavy beef purchasers, beef is a popular item with most consumers, and retailers would benefit from advertising these items to a wide audience.

The benefit of promoting beef at the retail level has been known for a while, and this panel study gives credence to that fact. Beef continues to drive consumer purchases and dollars to the bottom line of retail stores and is one of the best products to highlight during celebratory times. Consumers demand a wide variety of beef products and showcasing these items will increase the value of grocery purchases. 

  1. NielsenIQ, Homescan Panel, Understanding the Buyers of Fresh Meat, Average Basket Size by Protein, June 2021   
  2. NielsenIQ, Homescan Panel, Understanding the Buyers of Fresh Meat, Average Annual Dollar Sales, June 2021   
  3. NielsenIQ, Homescan Panel, Understanding the Buyers of Fresh Meat, Market Penetration by Protein, June 2021   
  4. NielsenIQ, Homescan Panel, Understanding the Buyers of Fresh Meat, TSV Channel Facts, June 2021  
  5. NielsenIQ, Homescan Panel, Understanding the Buyers of Fresh Meat, Cross-Purchase Analysis, June 2021   
  6. NielsenIQ, Homescan Panel, Understanding the Buyers of Fresh Meat, HML Meat Demos, June 2021