For a large percentage of the U.S. population, the taste of fresh-grilled meat and the experience of cooking outdoors are as synonymous with summer as the smell of ocean air and the sight of fireworks.


According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association’s (HPBA) 2013 State of the Barbecue Industry Report, summer holidays remain among the most popular grilling occasions, with July 4 (77% of grillers), Memorial Day (62%) and Labor Day (60%) at the forefront. With grilling at top of mind for many consumers’ throughout the summer months, the period is highly important for retail grocers – particularly considering meat department purchases make up nearly 20 percent of overall grocery sales and contribute critical profits to store operations, according to the 2012 Progressive Grocer Meat Operations Review.


Americans are more engaged with what’s cooking than ever before, paying closer attention to the quality, price and durability of their meat purchases. Also, consumer purchasing behavior is motivated increasingly by convenience; the 2013 Power of Meat report found that products fitting consumers’ lifestyle demands carries more weight in influencing purchase intent than ever before.


As the meat case accounts for a significant percentage of overall supermarket sales, the extra push from summer outdoor cooking enthusiasts can be a boost for retailers, especially those who best capitalize on the latest consumer behavioral trends. For example, retailers that address such areas as customers’ lack of time and confusion around proper meat storage and preparation techniques are best prepared to thrive during grilling season.


With the upcoming July 4 holiday serving as a midpoint for summer grilling season, below are some ways retailers can take advantage of opportunities to accelerate meat department revenue during this important period:

Spread the Word: 

Maximizing visibility for featured meat offerings utilizing a variety of marketing tools – including online and print promotions and in-store specials – keeps grilling top of mind, and makes the meat department a can’t-miss a destination during shopping. Nearly half of respondents (46%) to a 2011 Beef Checkoff survey stated they were more likely to buy beef if they received coupons or discovered special deals, even if those offers highlight premium products selling at a higher price point. But even the best offers aren’t as effective in generating results if increasingly busy and distracted consumers can’t find the products once they are in-store or if meat cases are not as appealing as they could be. Proper packaging provides retailers insurance on both fronts. Utilizing securely-sealed packaging eliminates leakers, helping retailers avoid shrink and keeping meat cases pristine and inviting for consumers. Adopting the latest packaging innovations also offers retailers a more robust variety of product labeling options, helping to distinguish meat in a way that draws attention from consumers looking for specific cuts or special offers. Package labeling also offers retailers increased opportunities to include recipes or suggestions for protein complements, potentially generating revenue from other departments during the shopping trip.

Full Speed from the Cart to the Plate: 

As mentioned earlier, convenience is a driving factor behind consumer purchase intent. For consumers who, according to recent reports by organizations including the U.S. Census Bureau, devote increasing amounts of time to work and less to meal preparation, retailers who help reduce the time it takes to prepare meals can position themselves as a valuable partner. Providing products packaged in new formats that offer easy, knifeless opening can help get meat from the store or the fridge to the grill more quickly – and can cut down on cleanup because fewer knives and utensils touch raw product, saving valuable time after the meal. Also, by offering vacuum packaged meat in addition to or instead of PVC overwrapped product, retailers can offer enhanced flexibility for on-the-go consumers. Purchasers of vacuum packaged meat enjoy the advantages of the packaging format’s versatility; not only is the product inside the freshest available, but it can be stored up to two weeks in the refrigerator, or much longer in the freezer – without developing freezer burn. For shoppers who all too often have plans change at the last minute, this can be a winning solution.

Fuel the Fire - Grilling Novices and Beginners Need Some Help: 

While many grocery consumers consider themselves grilling aficionados who can’t wait to show off their skills to friends, family and neighbors, there are still others interested in preparing successful dishes, but who lack the skills, understanding or confidence to perfectly select, season and sear the appropriate cut of meat. The 2013 Power of Meat report identifies a lack of knowledge of preparation as one of the key barriers to meat purchases; the same study, however, also shows more consumers turning to online resources for help. Retailers can utilize the online tools at their disposal, such as the company website, social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, or partnerships with influential bloggers to reach target audiences with new recipes, preparation tips and other helpful information. Those who harness trusted online resources stand to increase revenues from appreciative consumers. What’s more, combining educational information with in-store offers can increase consumer traffic and meat department profits, especially when product images clearly demonstrate product appearance and labeling for easy identification in store. Yet another option to reach those consumers lacking the confidence to prepare meals without a little extra help is adoption of packaging innovations that enable pre-marination of meats with just the right combination of ingredients, clearly labeled with instructions on timing to apply marinade, appropriate cooking temperatures and techniques, and more.


Summer grilling season positions meat as a must-have ingredient for the warmest months of the year, when the length of days and pleasant weather encourages consumers to spend more time outdoors than any other period, can help retail grocers on the path to profitability. Those retailers that formulate a strategy to take advantage of consumers’ buying behaviors stand to benefit the most from the unique opportunities summer brings.



How are you accommodating consumers’ demands for summer grilling season? What grilling promotional strategies have proven successful for your business thus far? We welcome thoughts and feedback.