For decades, a lack of consumer understanding of the features and benefits of vacuum packaging for beef has reduced retailer adoption of technology that enables shoppers to enjoy the freshest meat available. However, a recent third-party study commissioned jointly by the Beef Checkoff and Sealed Air’s Cryovac® food packaging brand shows that a little extra educational push may be all that is necessary to influence consumers’ purchase intent for beef products in vacuum packaging.
How ready are consumers to buy beef in a new format? Surprisingly so, based on research results that counter long-held retailer perceptions about consumers’ attitudes toward vacuum packaged beef.
For many years, conventional retail wisdom regarding vacuum packaged beef was that consumers preferred the bright red color of beef overwrapped with PVC material to the natural, darker red coloration of vacuum packaged product. These differences in color are due to variations in exposure to oxygen: PVC overwrapped beef is exposed to atmospheric oxygen while vacuum packaged beef is not. Thus the darker colored meat, having experienced less exposure to the environment, is fresher than that in PVC overwrapping. The information from the study indicates that even prior to providing information to consumers regarding the freshness and other advantages of vacuum packaging, the color issue may be overstated. Just one in six consumers shown vacuum packaged beef in an existing retail meat case cited aversion to the products’ darker coloration.
The study results indicate the need for customer education, with nearly 40 percent of consumers responding they are not very familiar or not familiar at all with vacuum packaging features and benefits. However, when exposed to educational information helping raise familiarity levels about vacuum packaging’s features and benefits, consumer purchase intent for vacuum packaged beef improved by 14 percentage points, to nearly 70 percent.
Study results further revealed that after education, 89 percent of respondents said it is important for their retail grocer to stock vacuum packaged beef. Also, 70 percent of consumers who received education about the features and benefits of vacuum packaging said they were willing to pay slightly more for beef packaged in this manner.
The third-party research clearly identifies an opportunity for retailers, beef processors and packaging providers to work together to develop effective educational materials and messages. Doing so can enable further adoption of technology that offers many operational efficiency benefits for retailers – while at the same time providing consumers the freshest beef possible, in packaging that provides them the most versatility.
In an upcoming post, we will revisit the vacuum packaging research results with a look at such factors as the most effective messaging for educating consumers. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about consumers’ perceptions around meat packaging and quality, click here to download the full results of the Sealed Air/NCBA study, and let us know your thoughts.