Understanding red meat buying behaviours in North America - AHDB

Price could be a barrier for British red meat exports
calendar icon 3 February 2023
clock icon 4 minute read

Consumer red meat buying behaviour in North America is influenced by three overarching factors: quality, price and taste. Research by AHDB in the region looked at opportunities for British meat exports.

An AHDB study with consumer research agency Two Ears One Mouth uncovered key insight into the buying behaviours of consumers across North America: exploring the US, Canada and Mexico. More than 4,800 consumers within the three markets took part in an online quantitative survey to help us better understand where British red meat fits into current consumer purchase habits. This article builds on previous research in other regions around harnessing consumer buying behaviour for British exports and red meat buying behaviour in southeast Asia. Here, we look in more depth at the findings across North America, pulling out key nuances between the different markets, whilst exploring what opportunities exist for exporters.

Meat buying behaviour in North America

The research highlights three overarching factors: quality, price and taste, which have a big impact on consumer purchase drivers within North America. Quality is the most influential factor from the study, which is a common trend seen in other regions. Price and value are also important drivers and show no signs of easing as the region responds to the cost-of-living crisis. Often price has a significant impact on consumers at the point of purchase, so justifying price points for British meat products will be crucial for exporters. With taste also featuring in the top three factors, there is a real opportunity for exporters to communicate the exceptional taste of British meat products.

Whilst there are slight variations, quality features in the top 2 drivers across the US, Canada (CA) and Mexico (MX). Price featured slightly higher in Canada, with taste still an important factor but slightly less of a priority. When looking at the some of the wider factors, things like Food Safety (US), Buying Local (Canada) and the freshness/use by date (Mexico) are starting to be evaluated by consumers.

Drivers of quality

Whilst quality featured highly in all three countries, the study highlights the importance of understanding what that means to consumers, as quality can mean something different in North America to consumers in southeast Asia, where it was also a main driver in buying decisions. This study asked consumers how they assessed the ‘quality’ of red meat products. In North America, taste, freshness / use by date and product appearance were key for driving quality. Showcasing fresh, appealing looking product is important in North America, with further probing identifying some particularly motivating labelling options for end consumers.

In North America there is a lot of overlap when it comes to quality drivers with things like taste, freshness/use by date and appearance all playing important roles, as well as wider interest across the region around production methods. Beyond these, but slightly lower in priority, there are some unique areas that could have an impact on quality perceptions in each market. Health benefits and animal welfare are unique drivers of quality perceptions in Mexico. Local and a premium feel came through a little stronger in Canada, with health benefits and product messaging such as organic coming through a little more in the US. These offer further opportunities for specific messaging if exporters are able to tailor their communications to target markets.

North American consumer perception of British red meat

British red meat remains niche for many consumers in North America, with the majority of criteria in line with that of their domestic product. We can see that in Mexico consumers have a more positive perception of British red meat with quality, price and value performing above domestic product. However, in the US and Canada, scores largely fell in line with the domestic product highlighting the opportunity to enhance consumers view of British meat.

The study shows that amplifying messages around quality and taste could offer British red meat exporters a strong footing with consumers in North America, whilst justifying any premium price point that British red meat may hold.

Barriers and opportunities for British red meat

With price being the top barrier to buying British meat, it’s clear that reinforcing value for money through the reassurance of quality and food safety is important to win over consumers in North America.

Showcasing delicious looking product can help quality perception, whilst also reassuring consumers on freshness perceptions (which came through strongest in Mexico). Within the study there are pockets of consumers who said ‘origin’ is important. Through deeper analysis of how they assess the ‘origin’, quality plays a key role. But within those consumer groups, wider factors begin to appear, with production standards, food safety and naturalness coming through slightly stronger. When prompted about specific labelling in the US, ‘USDA Prime’ assurance, as well as a number of animal welfare aspects were highlighted as important. The idea of ‘no additives and ‘natural’ products was also popular, and may provide and opportunity for UK exporters to highlight hormone-free, and where relevant antibiotic-free product.

In North America, British red meat is currently perceived as safe, natural and as having high production standards. There are strong opportunities for British exporters if they harness these buying behaviours and consider the wider consumer trends in the region.

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