Beef Checkoff's investment in consumer research provides promotional roadmap

Beef Checkoff develops promotional programs that effectively communicate beef's benefits to consumers and drive beef demand.

June 24, 2024

4 Min Read

Each year, the Beef Checkoff allocates funding for research – research about product quality, safety, nutrition, sustainability and finally, consumer behaviors and preferences. While all research is integral to the beef industry's continued success, consumer research helps the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), the 99-member organization that administers the Beef Checkoff program, invest producer dollars in ways that will best drive beef demand.

"Much of our work on the CBB boils down to ensuring we're promoting beef in ways that resonate with consumers," said Jeri Hanson, of Comfrey, Minnesota, member of the CBB and the Beef Checkoff's Consumer Trust and Evaluation Committees. "Years ago, I learned that, to sell something, you must be passionate and knowledgeable about your product, and perhaps even more importantly, you must understand your customers. What are they looking for? What do they need? What drives their behaviors? Those same principles apply to the beef industry."

Without consumer research, the Beef Checkoff could only guess at what today's consumers are looking for at the grocery store or on the restaurant menu. There would be no insight about their shopping habits, recipe trends or nutritional needs. By funding consumer research, the Checkoff can obtain that data and reach out to people from all walks of life with specific messages that encourage them to purchase beef, whether it's for a family dinner at home or a celebratory meal out on the town.

For example, during the summer grilling season, around 30 percent of all beef products are sold annually in the U.S. Recent research says, however, that increasing food costs, a decreased ability to save and a decline in consumer sentiment may cause consumers to focus more on value in 2024 than in previous years. While 96 percent still plan to grill this summer, they are more likely to buy cheaper cuts like ground beef, use more coupons and look for deals.

"That data tells us that it makes good sense to promote less expensive beef cuts and develop new recipes for those cuts this summer," Hanson said. "We've also taken that information and distributed a press release on National Beef Burger Day and shared recipes for "Beef on a Budget," along with grilling tips at Beef. It's What's For"

Another summer grilling season promotion features Beef. It's What's For Dinner's partnership with Little League baseball. As a well-known, family friendly activity, Little League is a great "brand fit" with Beef. It's What's For Dinner., and it hits on known consumer demand drivers that the Checkoff has uncovered research, like health, nutrition and convenience. The Little League regional championships happen from June to August, right during the heart of summer grilling season. Furthermore, this partnership will allow the Beef Checkoff to communicate beef's benefits to one of its core audiences – parents – in all 50 states.

Grocery shopping research also reveals that approximately 57 percent of consumers currently purchase at least some of their groceries online. To reach those consumers, the Beef Checkoff has initiated e-commerce partnerships with national grocery chains across the U.S. Through these partnerships, the Checkoff's Channel Marketing team can track a consumer from when they see a beef ad to when they purchase beef, showing a direct return on investment. In 2023, every $1 invested in these e-commerce campaigns resulted in $47 in beef sales, a tremendous ROI.

Other examples of Checkoff-funded research include a study about evolving consumer behavior and preferences related to the growing movement toward sustainability and environmental stewardship. That research has led to promotions like "Rethink the Ranch," an interactive map with links to stories about how beef producers are implementing their own environmental efforts, as well as a video series and a press release. There's also been a publicity push for the Beef Quality Assurance program called "The Right Way Is the Only Way" to show consumers how farmers and ranchers are caring for their animals and their land.

"Clearly, without consumer research, investing Checkoff dollars would be like going on a trip with no destination or plan in mind and no roadmap," said Hanson. "By investing in consumer research, we can uncover emerging trends, educate consumers and gain their trust in beef, develop effective promotions and squeeze more from every producer dollar. As a beef producer, I see research as key to keeping the beef industry strong for future generations."

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