Beef & Pork: Balancing Variety with Rising Costs

From Technomic Research

Beef and pork continue to be among the most popular proteins in both foodservice and retail. The recently published 2015 Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report shows that the vast majority of consumers eat beef (85%) and pork (69%) either as an entrée or an entrée topping or ingredient at least once a week.

However, the report reveals that beef and pork consumption is slightly down from 2012. One reason for the decrease is rising commodity prices. The USDA’s Economic Research Service says that beef prices, on average, are at record highs and predicts that they will rise by another 5% in 2015. In November, pork prices were already up 10% from the prior year, and the agency expects an additional increase of about 5% in 2015.

At the same time, consumer data shows that, compared to a year ago, at least a fifth of consumers go out to eat less often (26%) and order fewer beef menu items in general (21%) as result of rising beef prices.

Nevertheless, Technomic finds that many consumers continue to demand a wider variety of beef and pork items and even increasingly call for a greater selection of beef sandwiches at restaurants.

This situation can put substantial pressure on restaurant operators offering beef and pork dishes, because they have to carefully manage their menu mix while balancing costs.

So what can operators do? Offering beef and pork in ways that redefine value for consumers while positioning these dishes as unique offerings may help drive sales. Some operators are already offering new beef and pork items with unique flavors, meat blends, smaller portions of existing beef or pork dishes, value cuts, or alternative preparation styles such as char-broiled or braised that may be difficult for consumers to replicate at home