Pork continues to grow in popularity with U.S. consumers, says Jason Menke, director of marketing communications for the National Pork Board, Clive, Iowa.

For the 52 weeks ending May 25, pork dollar sales were up 1.3%, and overall poundage was up 0.2%. Pork was the only major protein that saw volume growth during that time.

“We also know that pork is a basket builder for grocers and retailers, and pork shoppers spend more and make more trips to the store,” Menke says.

Loin and shoulder continue to see solid growth in terms of dollars, and ribs remain fairly steady, likely driven by the increased interest in barbecue, he adds. “While we don’t have data to back this up, I’d guess that increased popularity of pellet smokers may be driving this. It’s increasingly easier for at-home pitmasters to achieve steady and consistent results.”

The pork industry is also seeing increased interest in meal kits and prepackaged meal solutions, as consumers look for increased convenience in their busy lives, Menke says. Meal kits provide consumers a quick, easy-to-prepare, healthy option for busy adults and families.

“We’re working to help the industry better understand the needs of today’s consumer,” he says. “It’s a much different marketplace than it was 30 years ago, and while consumer needs have changed, not much in the fresh pork set has.”

A tray of ten assorted chops, for instance, may have met the needs of boomers and their parents, but that’s not necessarily the case today. Understanding the needs of a more diverse customer whose time constraints and cooking skills are much different than a generation ago is critical to driving innovation that will create long-term success for pork.

“Making pork more relevant is paramount,” Menke says. “It’s got to be convenient, so solutions like easy-to-prepare marinated pork cubes that can be added to a stir fry or shredded for tacos help take a few steps out of the cooking process and save time. We’ve got to do more on the nutrition front as well.”

The pork tenderloin and sirloin have the American Heart Association’s “Heart Healthy” certification, so reminding consumers that pork is more than bacon is paramount, he adds. The pork industry has a great protein story to tell as well, Menke says, so making sure producers call that out on packaging is a must in an environment where protein is a key macro for many diets and lifestyles.


Fresh department as traffic driver: insights from the National Pork Board:

  • IRI data shows that within multi-outlet in the latest 52 weeks, total store sales continue to grow
  • Total store sales are up by $12 billion, total fresh is up by $1.6 billion
  • Fresh perimeter represents 23% of total store sales and 14% of growth
  • Fresh meat buyers are big spenders, especially fresh pork buyers, who make 21 trips on average a year and spend over $1,600 a year
  • Meat/pork sales are up in dollars sales
  • According to Nielsen POS data, through May 25, overall meat department dollars sales were up by 2%; volume was down .5%
  • Dollar sales across proteins are also evident: 1.3% for total pork during the latest 52 weeks. Total pork volume is up .2%
  • The dollar growth of total pork was driven by stronger growth rates in bacon and sausage in the latest 52 weeks; in fresh pork, loins and shoulders are bright spots
  • Consumers are leading busy lifestyles. The way that people, live, eat, and shop has shifted with convenience being a primary driver. Pork Board research has shown that consumers do not want to think too hard about getting dinner on the table.
  • 54% of consumers note that their dietary philosophy centers around fresh, less-processed products with fewer harmful ingredients
  • The implications for the meat department are that there are opportunities to evolve to meet the needs of today’s consumers
  • Leverage pork as a simple, healthy, versatile meal solution
  • Highlight pork’s relevance in protein and health
  • Offer smaller pack, ready to heat, pre-seasoned/pre-marinated options
  • Focus on ease and promote recipes for fast-cooking options (e.g., instant pot) or cook while away (slow cooker)
  • Innovate in-store meal kits or convenience options
  • Use signage effectively, e.g. “Dinner is almost ready with fresh pork.”