Using Sustainability to Bolster Beef Demand Among Millennial Generation ConsumersThu, 23 Jan 2014 12:51:08 CST
Beef sustainability. It means different things to different people. Producers see it one way. Consumers see it another. That's where the National Cattlemen's Beef Association Director of Sustainability Research, Dr. Kim Stackhouse, comes in. Speaking with Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays at the recent International Livestock Conference-USA in Denver, Stackhouse said the industry must do a better job of reaching consumers with the sustainability message. (Click on the LISTEN BAR at the bottom of this story for their conversation.)
"When we talk about sustainability we have the customer that is driving a lot of these conversations, predominantly the larger customers, the larger retail and restaurant chains, and then we have our consumer. From the consumer's perspective, we've done some consumer research looking at about 1,800 beef eaters and asked them, 'What do you base your decisions on which products to purchase?' Sustainability is starting to rise into that Top 10. So, is it a driver of why people are deciding to purchase beef or not purchasing beef? No, not yet."
Stackhouse said other factors like quality, nutrition, price, safety and value still outrank sustainability, but it is climbing as a factor.
"We look at that as 'back of the mind,' something that we may have an opportunity on which to continue to drive beef demand and potentially increase sales."
The first task in capitalizing on this opportunity, Stackhouse said, is to define what sustainability means and then get everyone singing off the same sheet of music-not an easy job.
"The beef industry has established a definition that's been approved by the Checkoff that's meeting the growing global demand for beef by balancing environmental responsibility, social opportunity, social diligence, and economic opportunity."
She said the same consumer research mentioned previously, 20 percent of consumers could not define sustainability. Half of the remaining 80 percent defined it as the ability to reuse. Twenty-five percent defined it as pertaining to shelf life and 25 percent defined it as a food production system's ability to maintain production. Stackhouse said industry insiders see this as a tremendous opportunity to define in the consumer's mind what the term means.
Beef producers, on the other hand, see sustainability as being able to maintain the profitability of their operations so that they can be handed down from one generation to the next.
"Unfortunately," Stackhouse said, "profitability is one of the lowest-resonating messages that we have with our consumers-which is unfortunate, but that doesn't mean it's not important. We absolutely have a sustainable product today and we have fifth and sixth generation ranchers. We have people that have been sustaining their families for long periods of time. They continue to produce high-quality beef.
"We need to go out with a message that talks about how genuine we are in the food that we produce. We need to be transparent about the messages that we bring forward. And we need to talk about it being a continuous improvement over time. And those are messages the consumer seems to gravitate toward and I think those are our opportunities to really sell product."
Stackhouse said she doubts the sustainability message will ever gain traction as one of the primary deciding factors in consumers' minds, but it plays a crucial role in bolstering how consumers perceive beef as a product.
Reaching the new Millennial generation as consumers, Stackhouse said, is best accomplished through the social media like Facebook and Twitter. She said the new generation of consumers is definitely motivated by social responsibility and they do respond to such messages in their media of choice.
The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network- but is also a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today's show- and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.
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