A Fresh Approach Improves Consumer Comfort Levels with Vacuum Packaged Meat

For decades, a lack of consumer understanding of the features and benefits of vacuum packaging for meat has reduced retailer adoption of technology that enables shoppers to enjoy the freshest meat available. However, a recent third-party study commissioned jointly by the Beef Checkoff and Sealed Air’s Cryovac® food packaging brand shows that a little extra educational push may be all that is necessary to influence consumers’ purchase intent for products in meat packaging.

How ready are consumers to buy beef in a new format?

Surprisingly so, based on research results that counter long-held retailer perceptions about consumers’ attitudes toward vacuum packaged meat.

For many years, conventional retail wisdom regarding vacuum packaged beef was that consumers preferred the bright red color of beef overwrapped with PVC material to the natural, darker red coloration of vacuum packaged product. These differences in color are due to variations in exposure to oxygen: PVC overwrapped beef is exposed to atmospheric oxygen while vacuum packaged beef is not. Thus the darker colored meat, having experienced less exposure to the environment, is fresher than that in PVC overwrapping. The information from the study indicates that even prior to providing information to consumers regarding the freshness and other advantages of vacuum meat packaging, the color issue may be overstated. Just 1 in 6 consumers shown vacuum packaged beef in an existing retail meat case cited aversion to the products’ darker coloration.

Consumer perceptions on meat packaging

  • 40% of consumers surveyed said they aren't familiar with vacuum packaging features and benefits
  • However, when exposed to education information about benefits and features, consumer purchase intent for vacuum packaged beef improved 14%
  • 70% of consumers surveyed are willing to may slightly more for the versatility associated with the features and benefits of vacuum packaged beef
  • 89% of consumers surveyed said it's important for their grocer to stock vacuum packaged beef items - after being educated on the many features and benefits of the format

The third-party research clearly identifies an opportunity for retailers, beef processors and packaging providers to work together to develop effective educational materials and messages. Doing so can enable further adoption of technology that offers many operational efficiency benefits for retailers – while at the same time providing consumers the freshest beef possible, in meat packaging that provides them the most versatility.