The inaugural American Lamb Summit, sponsored by the American Lamb Board and Premier 1 Supplies, challenged the industry to identify meaningful strategies to improve the American Lamb industry’s competitiveness and ability to recapture market share through production efficiencies, improved quality, and consistency of American Lamb. More than 200 sheep industry members attended the Lamb Summit held in Ft. Collins, Colo., Aug. 27-29.
The kickoff to the Summit was focused on opportunities for the American Lamb industry to increase market share and lamb consumption in the U.S. by understanding and delivering value attributes that consumers want and expect at a price they are willing to pay.
ALB called upon Michael Uetz, founder and managing partner of Midan Marketing, to moderate this important session. Midan Marketing focuses on understanding consumers attitudes and usage of meat to provide opportunities for the meat industry to better position their products. Uetz is one of the most recognized experts on meat marketing and consumer research.
“Consumers are ours to win or lose,” Uetz advised the industry.
Uetz challenged all segments of the U.S. Lamb industry to gain a better understanding of consumers and produce lamb that aligns with their product desires. “We can no longer just produce to produce. Everyone throughout the production system must focus on the end game--the consumer. Any consumer is a potential lamb consumer and it is all about how we understand how to satisfy their needs and drivers,” said Uetz.
While millennials are a key current consumer target, Uetz encouraged the industry to begin understanding and addressing Generation Z, who are currently 15 to 24 years old. Globally by 2020, “Gen Z” will account for 2.56 billion people – or 40% of all consumers.
His extensive research with meat consumers shows that the definition of quality now goes beyond the traditional definition of product characteristics, especially for millennials and Gen Z’s. “It now includes how the animal was raised, what it was fed, or not fed, impact on sustainability and influence on human health,” Uetz said.
For the U.S. Lamb industry, “your power is in your story. You have a great one to tell about American Lamb,” he counseled the industry. Uetz specifically cited how U.S. Lamb production aligns with millennial and Gen Z desires for a great source of protein that is sustainably produced.
To gain perspective from supermarket and restaurant markets, Uetz led a panel discussion with Faith Garrard, head of the meat category for the successful California retail chain Raley’s, and Jay McCarthy, a chef and consultant who has traveled the world educating his peers. Both panelists highlighted price challenges with American Lamb but also reaffirmed the opportunities to expand consumer usage of lamb by delivering a great-tasting consistent product.
McCarthy cited product consistency as a major reason he is willing to pay a significant price premium for Certified Angus Beef. Garrard said the majority of product decisions are made before people arrive at supermarkets, so U.S. Lamb needs to be instilled as the preference before shopper enters the store. Like Uetz, both experts encouraged the U.S. Lamb industry to “tell its story” to increase preference for American Lamb.