Ways to Win Grilling Season with Pork 

It may be cold outside, but grilling season is heating up. As retailers look ahead to their Summer and Fall promotional and merchandising plans, pork should be at the top of the list. From ribs to chops, grilling season is prime pork season. Expanding promotions to include other pork cuts like shoulder and specialty sausages can help you secure bigger baskets this year. To help you draw in more pork fans, we dug into the data to find the biggest opportunities this grilling and smoking season. 

Promoting Pork All Season  

According to Nielsen’s seasonality trends data, fresh pork (including ribs, chops and shoulder) was missing from many May promotions last year – the kickoff to grilling season. Including pork in Graduation, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day marketing campaigns will help draw shoppers all season long.  

As retailers plan grilling promotions, pork should be side-by-side with ground beef, chicken and steak to capture a larger share of griller loyalty and a larger basket, too. Pork shoppers are valuable customers, spending $1,644 annually, compared to $1,381 for beef shoppers and $1,245 for chicken shoppers. When pork is in the basket, shoppers are likely to buy ground beef, steak and chicken breast too, and their average basket total is higher, according to Nielsen Homescan.  

Expand Grilling Season to Include Smoking, Too  

Smoking meats continues to grow in popularity among consumers, and we see no sign of this trend slowing. Pork is the meat of choice for smoking season, compared to other proteins, and among meat smokers, most choose pork.  

Pork shoulder is one of the top potentials for smoking season, with $5.7 million in sales growth from 2018 to 2019 according to the latest Nielsen data. About a third (30.8%) of sales happen during grilling and smoking season compared to the rest of the year. Shoulder is especially popular among Hispanic consumers, who use it in traditional recipes like paleta, carnitas, tamales and pasteles de cedro. While shoulder sales were higher in September, there is significant opportunity to promote shoulder for smoking earlier in the year.  

Consumers Trade Up From Franks to Specialty Sausage  

While franks continue to lead among grillers, we’re seeing more consumers trade up to value-added sausages. Fresh dinner sausage sales increased $6 million from the 2018 grilling season to the 2019 grilling season. During the same time, fully cooked dinner sausage sales climbed $26 million, even without an increase in promotion. Unique sausage varieties may be one reason more consumers are drawn to specialty sausages. Some varieties include seasonings and spices like jalapeno and cracked black pepper, while others include bacon or aged cheddar. Buying fresh specialty sausage also brings shoppers to the fresh case, where they’re more likely to purchase other fresh pork cuts, too. 

Consumers Love Pork’s Flavor — We Just Need to Remind Them 

Our Insights to Action data shows 44% of consumers say fresh pork tastes delicious, compared to 46% for beef, 37% for fresh chicken and 27% for fresh turkey. Some cuts rank especially high on the list; two-thirds of consumers say pork ribs taste delicious, and 61% say pork chops taste delicious. Ribs are already a winner during grilling season. Leading with ribs will draw more consumers to the meat case, where we can then showcase new ideas for the grill or smoker, like shoulder and specialty sausage. Doing so will build new trial and loyalty among these valuable shoppers.   Check back next week for our economic outlook for the upcoming grilling season! 

Angie Krieger

Angie Krieger

Assistant Vice President, Channel Outreach

National Pork Board Cell: 319-594-4000 akrieger@pork.org