Traceable, free-from, purely natural, organic, and smaller portion products are propelling growth in supermarket meat departments, proprietary research from Progressive Grocer reveals.  Insights were tabulated from a proprietary survey fielded to retail meat executives from around the country in late 2014. As the only study of its kind, the exclusive retailer-driven meat department research study provides consolidated benchmark performance and operations insights recorded over the past year by senior category directors.

Among the key trends of this year’s study are traceable, free-from, purely natural organic and smaller portion products.  “The gains with higher-end fresh meat cuts — which are increasingly appealing to a larger base of more discriminat­ing, information-seeking consumers — have been a clear bright spot for grocers during a prolonged period of sticky high prices for the department’s leading cash cow, beef, domestic production of which remains tight due to lingering supply-and-demand economics,” said Meg Major, Progressive Grocer’s chief content editor. “But when considering that the average retail price of ground beef was nearly 20 percent higher in September from a year earlier, let alone the steeper prices of steaks and roasts, retailers’ plates are clearly full with confronting the volatile market conditions and working to maintain consumer demand and remain competitive.”

When retail executives were asked to weigh in on meat department sales performance for the 12 months ending November 30, 2014, more than half (52.8 percent) reported increases, with 20.7 percent recording status quo meat sales – good for an overall net change of 4.1 percent ahead of last year; 67.4 percent of respondents anticipate increased fresh meat sales in tandem with long-awaited equalized beef supplies.

Findings and implications from the 2015 Meat Retail Review will be available in print and digital editions as well as online at this month