Data Driven Research Offers Insight into Consumers

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National Pork Board Vice President of Domestic Marketing Jarrod Sutton recently offered information on consumer shopping habits to the National Pork Board. Buying habits are changing and pork has a position of power in the meat case. Find out more in this edition of Pork Pod.


Don Wick


Jarrod Sutton, Vice President Domestic Marketing, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:15 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing for the National Pork Board. And Jarrod, you recently had an opportunity to speak to the 15 member National Pork Board. Can you tell us a bit more about that presentation?

Jarrod Sutton: 00:30 Yeah, thanks Don. I think that the start of the presentation was the title, it’s called “Data Driven Thought Leadership”. We’re not short on data today. We can measure anything and everything. And what’s great about working for America’s pork producers is just the history of this industry and you know who we are and what we do. We’re always innovating and we’re always embracing technology and new scientific discoveries, working them into our business. And it should be no different as we think about how we market our product and so using data to really drive thought leadership in the industry, and certainly with our branded partners and our retail and food service companies to illustrate to them how consumers are behaving today, how they’re shopping today, just how people are eating today. And being very candid, there’s a gap there. A lot of folks downstream don’t necessarily have the best understanding or a good understanding of what the opportunities are with pork and the shifting consumer segments and their buying habits today.

Jarrod Sutton: 01:29 And so it was fun to really start pulling some of the insights and, I guess, nuggets if you will, out of our comprehensive demand landscape research project that we’ve been working on and share that with our board of directors. A couple of key points, Don, that I would start with is really, you know, a position of power for pork. And that’s a little bit different as sometimes we think we’re the number three protein and then taking a backseat to other competing proteins. But fact of matter is pork is the number one consumed protein around the world. And in 2017, 97% of Americans bought pork. That’s a position of power. I like that! And the pork shoppers, those people who were buying pork are worth more to retail grocers than just be for chicken shoppers. And what that means is people will go into the stores that are going to buy beef or they’re going to buy chicken, you know, they’re going to buy those products. Our opportunity is to get chicken or excuse me, is to get pork into the cart because if they’re buying beef and they’re buying chicken, pork doesn’t replace those proteins.

Jarrod Sutton: 02:32 It actually adds to it. That’s an important point for a retail grocery supermarket chain who’s trying to sell more meat and knowing that they’re not gonna make trade-offs inside of the meat category. And so we can talk about, you know, looking at the data that we have available to us. Just how much the quantitative value that a pork shopper brings to the grocery store as opposed to just an exclusive beef or chicken shopper. Those are important points! You know you’re driving sales with pork. And we, as the organization representing the industry, are very aggressively communicating that out to retail grocers right now. We’ve got a lot of product. It’s a tremendous value and it will drive sales and that’s something that is a key point from data that is driving thought leadership and that we’re proactively communicating to the industry.

Don Wick: 03:20 Jarrod, Pork Checkoff has done a lot of work on the cooking temperature. Has that resonated with consumers? What have you found?

Jarrod Sutton: 03:27 Yeah, absolutely. Also inside of the data, again, it’s all data driven! So you can quote these statistics and change the conversation. Our motto around the Pork Board here is “data heavy and assumption light”. You have assumptions. Let’s explore and let’s figure out and use data so that we can effectively move things forward. So if people are overcooking their pork loin, well, let’s figure out how and why. And so 69% of pork eaters, so people who are buying loin cuts, 69% of them are overcooking it. They’re cooking it to medium well or more likely, well, and that’s what we hear more often than not. However, what we’ve discovered is if we are consistent as an industry in communicating medium rare or medium, either way, medium rare, medium, there’s no statistical difference in the receptivity of consumers on that message. It’s the same medium rare, medium, that that’s the ideal temperature, that people will change.

Jarrod Sutton: 04:21 And this quite frankly, Don, is our lowest hanging fruit. The more of us, as an industry, consistently communicating to consumers that the right way to cook pork loin cuts, chopped roast, whole loin, whatever it is, the right way to cook it is to a medium rare or medium temperature. That changes everything. That produces a better eating experience. And obviously that leads to frequency and repeat purchasing. And so the data suggests that consumers will receive this. If there’s push back from any of our brands, what I do, what our team does, we push right back to the data. Here it is. This is what the data says. It’s what people respond to. This is an opportunity to, right now, get people to eat more pork, because if they cook it right, they have that pleasant, enjoyable, optimal eating experience at a medium rare, medium temperature, there’s a good strong likelihood they’re going to come back and buy some more product quicker. So that’s our lowest hanging fruit, Don, and certainly a key point of focus for us right now.

Don Wick: 05:16 What does the data tell you on some of the, I would call more social issues. things like sustainability perhaps?

Jarrod Sutton: 05:22 Yeah, it’s there. I mean certainly people are thinking about and talking about it, but you’ve got to quantify it. So it is a very small number of people that are talking about pork, as a production pigs, the production side of our business, especially in the social media space and it’s easy to look at that. Again, everything we do in the digital space is available to capture and analyze. And so really when you look at pork as a food in the conversations that are happening in social media, and then you look at pork or pigs as production in those conversations, it’s very miniscule. It’s less than 10% of the conversations and so that means more than 90% of the conversations are about pork as a food. We have to keep that into perspective and when you can own a positive, own the halo is what I would say, that’s our message. That’s what we promote. That’s what we communicate. We’ve got our house in order. Our ducks are in a row behind us. You want to talk about pig production. We got a heck of a story that we can talk about there in terms of our environmental footprint, our carbon footprint, and how that continues to improve, which of course is America’s pork producers “MO”, the efforts towards continuous improvement. That enables people who just want to eat and enjoy the food to do it with a, you have that freedom to succeed with pork, to do it with a clear conscience. And so again, our focus is on pork as a food. We do have the conversation with pig as, in terms of production and how what we do on the farm today produces the best pork that we’ve ever had available for consumers to enjoy.

Don Wick: 06:51 How does all this data, sometimes we get inundated with all the numbers, how do you take that data and give you that road map for the future?

Jarrod Sutton: 07:00 Yeah. Keep it simple. That’s exactly right. We are not short on data and the more companies and businesses and industries that I interact with Don, the more I realized this is a universal problem, is how do you put these insights, the data did you have available to you into action? We get data heavy and with big data and, and you know, heavy data, it can be complicated and confusing. And there are times, I think, certainly within other organizations and industries where the market trends and the data don’t always align with where individuals want to go. And that’s that emotion that fuels, you know, decision making. And so our discipline, and it is a discipline, is to let the data guide us. What’s the data tell us? Not unlike your financial partnership with your banker or your stockbroker or portfolio manager. You need to use objective data to make the best, sound decisions and yet boil it down and keep it simple.

Jarrod Sutton: 07:55 And so there’s a tremendous amount of information out there. Don. What we’re looking for right now, in this time of, quite frankly, need for pork industry, is the lowest hanging fruit. And so our team is hitting the streets, pounding the pavement, pressing the flesh, wherever you want to call it, talking with packers, the branded partners, talking with retail and food service companies. Focusing in on the loin cuts and focusing in on the messaging. Because the data says this, here’s what we know we can do to affect that and we can generate additional sales, just getting more people eating more pork, more often, as a result of it. So then what’s next? Think about the road map to your point. We need to understand better the Hispanic consumers, you know, thoughts about pork, and you know, buying habits with pork. That’s a major consumer base for us in this country that continues to increase and yet as we see the acculturation of that consumer, the consumption of pork tends to slow down a bit. We need to understand that better and we need to directly address whatever those issues are, maybe misinformation is, that influences that choice to consume less pork. And those are all kind of some low hanging fruit, Don, that create this road map for us that over the next X number of months and probably years, we’re going to really hone in and focus on to, as I said, I get more people eating more pork, more often.

Don Wick: 09:16 Jarrod Sutton from the National Pork Board. Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit