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We have dramatically changed our shopping habits, meal preparations, and how we spend our time since the COVID-19 outbreak in March. A new report published earlier in December by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a Beef Checkoff program contractor, looks at consumers’ attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors during the pandemic.

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

The report titled, “State of the Consumer,” looked at how consumer behaviors have changed and how the beef industry can respond to keep the protein on people’s minds when they go shopping.

Some highlights of the report include:

According to the report and Consumer Beef Tracker, the number of consumers who purchased beef once a week increased from 67 percent in 2019 to 72 percent in 2020.

Consumers are cooking more meals at home now than before COVID-19. The beefitswhatsfordinner.com website saw an increase in searches for classics such as meatloaf, beef stuffed peppers, London broil, beef recipes and cooking times for roasts. Nearly two-thirds of people stated they would continue to cook at home in the long term.

Online ordering for groceries and meals will likely continue and expand; 67 percent of consumers ordered groceries online and 86 percent ordered a meal online. The report stated in August, only 38 percent of consumers feel comfortable eating at a restaurant outdoors. Only 45 percent of consumers also feel comfortable shopping inside a store, 24 percent are comfortable to attend church services and 28 percent to let their children go to school or daycare in person. These figures increase slightly with the vaccine’s availability with the most significant increases in travel, going to the gym and eating inside a restaurant.

The report states, “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.” Since April, consumers reported stocking up on groceries, including 55 percent reported stocking up on ground beef and almost a third on beef steaks.

As more people are spending time streaming—Nielsen Research reports a 74 percent increase in streaming minutes in the second quarter on various platforms—NCBA will utilize various marketing channels including paid, owned digital and social media platforms.

Overall, positive consumer perceptions of beef and beef production increased for the first time to 70 percent during the pandemic and will likely remain higher for the next several months. Consumers may return to expressing concerns about food production when the focus changes from current circumstances. On a positive note, production perceptions regarding how cattle are raised increased by 18 percent over 2019.

Shawn Darcy, NCBA senior director of market research, stated the checkoff-funded report allows them to evaluate and “understand the consumer landscape,” thus, allowing them to market “checkoff programs to be more efficient, whether through promotion, education or information distribution.” — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor


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