Food Care Focus: Messaging Key to Developing Consumer Purchase Intent for New Meat Packaging Formats

A recent Food & Beverage Focus blog post focused on new research into consumer attitudes toward vacuum packaging, and specifically meat packaging. That third party research, a joint effort between The Beef Checkoff and Sealed Air’s Cryovac® food packaging brand, revealed two key findings with significant implications for meat processors and retail grocers.

  • First, consumers are aware of vacuum packaged beef, but likely not familiar with the packaging format’s features and benefits.
  • Second, there is a need for consumer education, because when consumers learn about and become more familiar with the benefits of vacuum packaging, their definite purchase intent for vacuum packaged beef increases significantly.

This potentially is great news for processors and retailers alike, as vacuum packaging’s versatility can help reduce shrink and prevent food waste.

Noting the need for consumer education on vacuum packaging is the first step. The next is determining the messages that resonate best with grocery shoppers. Fortunately, the Beef Checkoff/Cryovac research provides insight in this area, as well.

During the study, researchers discovered a clear hierarchy of messaging preference among consumers. In the following order, the messages most likely to influence consumer purchase intent for vacuum packaged beef are:

  • Freshness – vacuum packaged beef is guaranteed to be the freshest fresh beef available
  • Vacuum packaged beef experiences a natural transition to bright red soon after opening the package (when exposed to oxygen the meat’s redness gets brighter)
  • The package is virtually leak-proof, keeping beef’s juices locked in
  • Vacuum-sealing keeps refrigerated beef fresh and ready to use for at least 10 to 14 days (longer than PVC overwrapped product)
  • Vacuum packaged beef is freezer ready, protecting product from freezer burn and enabling greater versatility for consumers (for example, shoppers can buy larger volumes of beef on sale and have the peace of mind of knowing they can freeze product for later use without negatively impacting the cooking/eating experience)

The study also showed additional features and benefits of vacuum packaged beef to be important to consumers. These features and benefits, and corresponding messages, are secondary, however. Communicating information about the durability of vacuum meat packaging, the format’s superior ability to protect product from contamination and the high quality, taste and juiciness vacuum packaging delivers doesn’t have a significant impact on consumer purchase intent.

Also of note is the impact of sustainability messaging. Study results show consumers view the eco-friendly benefits of vacuum packaging – extended shelf life and product freezability contribute to reducing food waste – to be nice inclusions, but not critically important to buying decisions.

Moving more product to vacuum packaging has clear benefits for retailers and processors. These audiences have known this to be true for some time, but have shown reluctance to move in this direction because of perceptions of consumer attitudes toward beef packaged in the format. The Beef Checkoff and Sealed Air Cryovac now have research that shows consumers may be ready for a new meat packaging format. If messaged correctly, consumers can gain assurance of the natural and timely color change after opening the package. This, combined with several other product benefits, can be effective in increasing sales of vacuum packaged beef.