New results from the 2007 National Meat Case Study will provide the National Pork Board with insights on trends and strategies in meat case merchandising to better meet the needs of consumers. The data from the 2007 study will be compared to results from studies conducted in 2002 and 2004.

“The 2007 results confirm that consumers continue to look for convenience and ease in meal preparation,” says Jarrod Sutton, director of retail marketing for the National Pork Board. “From increases in on-pack communications and full-service meat cases, to significant shifts toward case-ready packaging, retailers must simplify the shopping experience for consumers.”

The National Meat Case Study provides a benchmark for previous studies, but analysts stress the economic climate in 2007 must be taken into consideration. During last year's audit, the economy was strong, the consumer price index was up and corn prices were on the upswing. As a result, retail meat prices rose in response to higher meat production costs and increased meat demand.

The 2007 study surveyed 121 retail supermarkets and 10 club stores in 48 major markets in 34 states. Sealed Air's Cryovac Food Packaging, the Beef Checkoff and the National Pork Board again sponsored the study.

Growth in value-added packages was driven by fresh pork, which was up 11%, now accounting for 23% of fresh pork packages. Value-added turkey products grew to 19%, up from 5%, while value-added beef sales rose to 7%, compared to 3%, previously.

Packages of natural and organic meats also gained market share in 2007. Packages with a “natural” claim increased to 29% of the total packages, up 7% over 2004. Chicken at 67% had the highest amount of packages with the natural claim, followed by ground beef at 25% and fresh pork at 15%.

Case-ready packaging also continued its trend upward. In 2002, less than 50% of the packages were case ready. In 2007, that figure rose to 64%, led by increases in lamb/veal and pork.

“The National Meat Case Study provides valuable information that's used widely,” says Sutton. “We will share this information with retailers as they review their current merchandising strategies.”