Dinner at Home in America

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The Pork Checkoff has funded a comprehensive study on how American consumers eat at home. More than 10,000 people were surveyed. National Pork Board vice president of domestic marketing Jarrod Sutton outlines this project in this edition of Pork Pod. Sutton also explains how this information is being disseminated to maximize the effectiveness of this research.


Don Wick


Jarrod Sutton, Vice President of Domestic Marketing, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:15 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing for the National Pork Board. And Jarrod, a subject we’ve talked about many times, about meal consumption, particularly those meals eaten at home. There’s been some comprehensive research done by the Pork Checkoff. Tell us about it.

Jarrod Sutton: 00:34 Yeah, thanks Don! That’s it! Everything’s changing and that’s just the world that we live in today, especially how people eat. And I read recently through some Wall Street analysts’ columns about how they’re looking at big food companies, which is different today than it was five, ten years ago. They’re seeing big companies as really big glaciers that are slowly, you know, a victim of global warming and melting and you can’t see it when you look at it and watch it today. But over time you see it shrinking. And that’s the reality of how the food industry is really changing and that’s a result of consumers’ changing trends, how they’re thinking about certainly the way that they live and how that influences how they shop and what they buy and of course, how and what they eat. So for us to be successful as a pork industry, and for pork products to continue to grow in demand here domestically in the United States, but also abroad, we’ve got to understand what’s at the core of these changing consumer trends and how do we understand that so we can position our products, our cuts differently so that it actually meets the needs that people have during, you know, the various, you know, eating occasions that they encounter and go through on a daily basis.

Jarrod Sutton: 01:54 And so we really started this process way back in 2016. A really robust process to generate a massive amount of data and it’s big data and big data creates all kinds of opportunities to really mine that data for insights that can help guide the industry as we think about what growth looks like both today and tomorrow. And so we’re pleased to be able to announce the launch of the first full report from our datasets and it’s called Dinner at Home in America, and I often joke because if I’m talking to my mom and dad, I got to say supper at home, but it’s Dinner at Home in America and how that’s changing. We’ve been able to really get a good handle on nine different eating occasions that represent, you know, better than 90 percent of Dinner at Home in America, any given day, any given week throughout the year. And everybody that looks at this will be able to relate to most, if not all, of these different dining occasions.

Jarrod Sutton: 02:54 You’re rushed. You’re in a hurry. You gotta have something that’s quick, fast, easy, but also kind of nutritious as well. There are other times where you’ve got time and you can plan and you’ve got a craving, and so anyway, when you dive deep into the data and you really start to understand what’s influencing people’s decisions when they’re thinking about and buying products for those dinner occasions, you really get some clear insight to, or line of sight, I should say, into a consumer’s mindset that can help us influence product development that, like I said, just fits. And I think at the end of the day, that’s really what the opportunity for us is. To grow demand for pork, our cuts need to be merchandised differently and this data is going to help our industry really do that successfully.

Don Wick: 03:44 Do we find that there’s certain behaviors with that consumer that we can focus in on?

Jarrod Sutton: 03:51 Yeah, absolutely. There are five perception issues for protein that are most important to consumers, and when I say consumers, I mean people, everybody, right? People are living differently. People are shopping differently. People are eating differently. So when it comes to protein, which of course we’re in the protein business, and some people forget that, Don, because you read about peanut butter and yogurt and all these great sources of protein. Man, we gotta do a better job as an industry of making sure people know that the original protein and certainly the most powerful protein product is lean pork. And so eating healthy, looking for protein, need things that are quick and easy. You know, they got to, everybody’s living a busy lifestyle and so when it comes to preparation for food, it’s got to be quick. There’s got to be some value added steps by the packer, by the processor, by the retailer, whomever it may be, that it makes that a little bit easier for me so I can get dinner on the table in 15 minutes and so we can just simply keep the machine running.

Jarrod Sutton: 04:57 There’s got to be the safety component. You know, people that’s table stakes, right, especially in the food business. And so how we position our product to ensure that consumers have that confidence and understanding of the safety of pork cuts. Flavor trumps everything! It’s gotta taste good. Taste is arguably most important, otherwise you’re not going to be able to talk about versatility and all the other attributes. If people don’t like it, that’s not a good thing. So thankfully with our portfolio of cuts, we got something for everybody. And the final point that those perception issues is it has to be, has to be understood as being good for the earth. People need to eat with, or desire to eat with, a clean conscience. Now they don’t always do that. There are times where you splurge and kind of look the other way, but the vast majority of people in this country are looking to make a difference through the food choices that they make.

Jarrod Sutton: 05:48 And so again, thankfully for us, we’re in a great position, just not enough people know about it. And that’s really the call to action for industry partners, our processors, our packer partners, retailers and food service. If you are in the pork business, if you’re in the business of selling pork, we all need to be rallying around these five perception challenges for us to ensure that we’re consistently communicating to consumers the taste of pork, you know, the ease of preparation of pork and presenting it as such. The safety of our product, the nutritional density of our product, and then obviously the sustainability story of pork production in general. That’s how we win long-term in growing demand for pork in the US.

Don Wick: 06:35 Jarrod, I think about the way we eat today and then you talk about the rush consumers have getting something on the table at the end of the day, ground beef comes to mind. Chicken perhaps. How does pork fare in that mix?

Jarrod Sutton: 06:47 Lower and that’s the reality. That’s the harsh reality. It’s a bit of a slap in the face for me, Don, as I look at the data and I see not only how people are buying, and that’s what’s key about this data, and we need to make sure that stakeholders who will invest in some innovation as a result of this data, which is risky, right? Anytime you’re going to try something new, there is a risk there! But have confidence in this data, and it’s incredibly valuable data because of the thoroughness and process of which the data was gathered. You can now with digital technology, simply observe through transactional behavior, right, how people are shopping. You can look at just simply their receipts, which is the best way to find out consumer behavior. Asking people is not necessarily the best way to find out how they truly behave. But with digital technology today, you can look at it, you can see it, and so that’s a great step for us to really dig down even deeper to the core issues that pork faces in terms of those perception challenges.

Jarrod Sutton: 07:51 And then of course the opportunity is to ask them, so here’s what you did. We see the transactional behavior. We see what you bought. Why did you buy it? What were you thinking? What were you needing? What were you feeling? What were those occasions? And that’s where it’s, you know, the research really plays an important role there to understand that mindset because all that’s going to shape the positioning of our product. And so we’re quick to say it’s ground beef because it’s easy. Well, absolutely, and there’s a heck of a lot of people that need easy ground beef into some something. Tacos. Everybody has taco night, right? Spaghetti. A lot of people have spaghetti night. It’s just about keeping the machine running, the family running and so we have these routine dinner eating occasions because I don’t have to think about it. I go to the store once a week, I got it on hand.

Jarrod Sutton: 08:37 I know we’re going to have tacos and the family’s going to eat it. The interesting thing for us is pork’s not part of that consideration set! And it absolutely should be because if you go to Mexico, you’ll see all kinds of varieties of pork primarily as the protein for tacos. And so again, opportunity for us as a pork industry, to really re-position pork for a good number of people in the US. To take back what, things like Taco Night, we should be owning and more importantly, developing products that can fit into those eating occasions so that consumers think about it a bit differently in that it’s just easy and don’t have to put a lot of thought into it. And yet it’s something everybody’s going to really enjoy and everybody’s going to eat.

Don Wick: 09:22 Jarrod, this is a huge piece of research, 10,000 plus surveys conducted. How are you going to utilize this? Where do we go from here?

Jarrod Sutton: 09:30 Yeah, good question. Thanks for that Don. It’s gonna have, it’s a shelf life, you know, because data is from research and the research can, you know, get a little stale. And so our job is to mine this as fast as we can to get as much as we can while it’s as fresh as it is. And that’s our intent. In 2019, it’ll be fast and furious. It’ll be every week. This constant churning out of data and insights from the research. Now the challenge for us as an organization that represents producers is to deliver this data in a story form so that stakeholders in our industry, we’ve got a lot of busy, they’ve got lots of things on their plate every day. They’re working on lots of different things. How do you boil all of this down to those key actionable insights that hit, that stick, that people get?

Jarrod Sutton: 10:23 And so it’s really about transferring sound science into sound bites. We live in a sound bite world and we’ve got to have that marketing communications strategy. And so this Dinner at Home in America has nine different eating occasions that we’ll be diving into the first nine weeks of January, first 10 weeks, the comprehensive report releases first. And then we’ll be talking about other things. We have a comprehensive report on the Hispanic consumer in the US. We haven’t even started talking about dinner away from home, right? So we’ll be talking about all of the away from home eating experiences. And as I said, it’ll be a steady source of news bureau-like fashion of insights, insight to action, shared on a weekly basis with stakeholders. And every week there will be something for someone in our industry inside this dataset. And the cool thing is with a great channel marketing team and all of the other folks that are inside the organization, as well as our partners, we have the opportunity to dive deep into this dataset with our downstream stakeholders, our customers, retailers, food service company, as well as packers and processers, to really launch some pilot projects that the data says we need to do this, let’s figure out how to invest Checkoff dollars with our partners to test and to learn. And if we’re successful, which I know that there are some wins inside of this dataset, if we’re successful, well, that changes everything.

Don Wick: 11:51 Once again, a reminder, this report called Dinner at Home in America, very complete, very comprehensive, and you can find the full report at pork.org/marketing. Thank you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit pork.org.