Pork industry sees positive consumer trends in the pandemic

Despite challenges along the supply chain, consumer demand for ground pork increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Pork Board said it saw a 24 percent increase in ground pork sales since March 1 with more consumers trying it for the first time.

“The domestic marketing plan that we started with in 2020 changed drastically throughout the year as our team pivoted to make sure that we were meeting consumers where they were during what’s been a really challenging year for our supply chain,” Angela Krieger, vice president of domestic marketing for the National Pork Board, said.

Krieger said the checkoff team noticed early in the pandemic that people were quarantining and doing stock-up trips.

“We started right away recycling some materials that we had from the past around recipes and inspirations,” she said. “We showed consumers how they could cook once with a large cut of pork and eat two or three times and really feed their families on a budget. It was very successful for us. People were buying products that they hadn’t bought for many years, and they really were looking to every resource that they could find for those recipes.”

What impressed Krieger was that almost half of the ground pork shoppers did not purchase the meat in the year prior.

“This year, many of them have bought it at least twice, so they’ve been repeat purchasers,” Krieger said. “We’re seeing ground pork as a destination product, so people are actually seeking it out to put in recipes because it is great in multicultural flavors.”

Krieger said the uptick is due to a variety of factors, but a big one is that people were not eating out at restaurants as much, and they missed some of their favorite dishes. The National Pork Board created Pork as a Passport as a way for consumers to recreate their favorite flavors at home.

“It’s been really fun to bring in chefs from around the globe to show consumers how to bring those flavors in a really accessible way in their home kitchens,” she said. We work with a lot of home cook influences too, and it is really just fun to follow along with them to try out new recipes for the family.”

Although the future of the pandemic is still uncertain, the National Pork Board is optimistic that those domestic sale increases will continue.

“Pork had fallen out of relevance with consumers,” Krieger said. “Our retail sales being as strong as they are through this year shows that we’ve had a lot of consumers rediscover the flavor of pork, and that’s a really bright spot for our future.”

Another appeal for consumers may have been the pork price point. Even with backlogs in the pork supply chain because of COVID-19 complications in processing plants, pork only increased in price by about 8 percent, according to Krieger.

“It’s not significant compared to what some of the other proteins saw from an inflationary standpoint,” she said. “It’s still a tremendously good value for consumers.”

Looking ahead in 2021, the National Pork Board plans to lean into messaging to overcome misconceptions about pork and increase awareness of the meat’s nutritional value.