Consumers have become increasingly focused on maintaining diets centered around health, says Jason Menke, director of marketing communications for the National Pork Board, Clive, Iowa.

The stats bear it out. According to Nielsen, 46% of American stated that claims on food products influenced their purchasing. Another

54% of consumers say “high protein” is an important attribute when purchasing food for their household, and 67% of consumers stated a desire to know everything that is going into the food they eat.

Despite those trends, research commissioned by the Pork Board shows that just 11% of fresh pork products today carry health claims. (Hormone/ Steroid Free, Antibiotic Free and Natural/ Naturally Raised are the most prevalent callouts.)

“There’s ample opportunity for the pork industry to educate consumers and provide permissibility,” Menke says. “Fresh pork generally features limited claims, yet on-pack messaging that still provides visibility to the in-package product remains a good means to communicate with consumer.”

Where the pork industry has made gains, Menke says, is in sharing proper cook temperature labeling on packs to help consumes understand how to prepare fresh pork.

“We’ve done some labeling projects with major retailers and have discovered that including the proper end-point cooking temperature of 145°F on whole-muscle cuts like chops and roasts has improved sales of fresh pork,” Menke says. “It’s no surprise that if you show customers how to cook pork so it’s safe to eat but still juicy and tender is going to increase repeat purchases.”


Willing to pay a premium

Nutritional labeling has been one of Hatfield, Pennsylvania-based Clemens Food Group’s go-to-market strategies that continues to contribute to the success of its Hatfield® dry rubbed marinated portfolio, says Kiersten Hafer, the company’s vice president of marketing.

Clemens also has refreshed its labeling to call out protein value per serving, all natural and no hormones or steroids added and other health and nutrition messages, Hafer says.

“We saw an opportunity to help consumers understand the value of protein in pork so we started providing a protein callout per serving on the front of our labels,” she says. “Calling out protein across our entire Hatfield® branded portfolio creates a consistent way for consumers to identify the protein per serving making it easier for the consumers to shop.”

According to the 2019 Power of Meat study, Hafer says, three in 10 shoppers look for “better for” claims relative to the animal and planet, with younger shoppers driving the demand.

“Through the work we have done with concept testing to validate the importance of the attributions on our labels, we found that calling out ‘all natural’ on packaging yielded a 96% purchase likelihood,” Hafer says. “Shoppers are willing to pay more for all natural products, placing a higher value on products such as Hatfield® Dry Rubbed Marinated pork.”


Calling out benefits

According to Nielsen, Free from Hormones pork volume accounts for 32% of packaged pork products, and it increased by 5.3% vs. last year.

Free from Added Sugar pork volume accounts for 3.4% of packaged pork products, similar to last year.

Vegetarian Fed (+10.6% vs. YA) and Free from GMO Ingredients (+9.4%) are top-growing labels for packaged pork products.

Menke says there’s ample room for those numbers to keep growing.

“We need to do a better job of actively calling out fresh pork as a good protein source and highlight its relevance in protein and health,” he says. “Emphasize leaner cuts and cooking temperature to educate consumers and drive engagement.”

Retailers can also use signage to effectively to show how pork is a simple, quick and health meal solution, keeping in mind that 84% of consumers say health and wellness is an important reason to buy fresh food.

Producers, meanwhile, can provide on-pack suggestions for younger shoppers who say they “just manage” or “need help” when cooking meat, or for other consumers seeking meal ideas, Menke says.

Although not permitted by USDA standards, Clemens Food Group also made the decision to call out No Hormones or Steroids Added on the front of its Hatfield® labels. That helps shoppers understand that its animals were raised without added hormones and the use of steroids or growth promoters.

Although not a nutrition call out, Clemens’ Family Owned. American Made slogan is an important call out for the Hatfield® brand because it speaks to who Clemens is as a company, Hafer says.

“This attribution ties directly to our Pork with a Pledge® platform, which we use to help communicate who we are and what we have always done when it comes to progressive farming practices, animal care and food safety.”

According to a National Pork Board study on generational shifts, key factors that are driving younger shoppers at grocery include transparency, convenience and value. Because of this, Hafer says, labels have become a critical marketing tool and perhaps harder to read for the typical shopper because of all the information and attributes.

“The desire to grab share of the millennial wallet is what drives Hatfield® to amplify nutritional call outs, all natural attribution and our commitment around transparency.”