GfK Belgium – Public Services conducted a consumer market study on the functioning of the meat market in the European Union commissioned by the Executive Agency for Health and Consumers of the European Commission. The study aimed at identifying consumers’ viewpoints on the meat market and encompassed a range of topics: retailer and product choice, prices, problems and complaints, waste, safety, quality, health, sustainability, animal welfare, origin and consumer behavior.
13,000 online and face-to-face interviews among consumers who buy meat in all 27 Member States were carried out. In addition stakeholders from the meat chain, consumer and health organizations and from regulatory authorities, meat processors and retailers were interviewed. The survey and interviews were completed by 24,000 Mystery Shopping observations over 10,000 meat products.
The data was analyzed through advanced analysis techniques: principal component analysis, KDA-KEA analysis, Maximum Difference Scaling, log-linear regression, TURF analysis and priority quadrants.
The study showed that consumers are making only limited efforts to inform themselves about aspects of meat, and their knowledge and understanding of the meat market is low. Low proportions of the consumers are able to correctly identify, for instance, the meaning of the ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ (PDO) logo (4%), the ‘low fat’ label (23%) and the ‘best before’ date (36%).
When buying meat consumers report to pay most attention to sensory cues (e.g. ‘the meat looks fresh’, ‘the meat looks tasty’, ‘the meat is displayed hygienically’), the price and the origin of the meat. Overall, health, price and safety considerations are more important factors in their meat purchase decision process.
The availability of specific meat types varies widely across Member States and purchase channels, and the lack of availability of specific meat types in certain cases seems to constrain consumer choice. Mystery shopping data shows that supermarkets and hypermarkets have a better choice of specific meat types (e.g. organic, animal welfare certified) than butcher’s shops and small retailers. The supermarket is the main retailer for meat for 40% of the EU consumers followed by butchers and hypermarkets.
Existing research shows that there is a gap between consumer intentions and behavior, particularly for ethical products, which is supported by the survey results: many consumers declare an interest in ethical products but only smaller proportions purchase them. Prices, availability of specific types of meat, but also information provision (‘I am not sufficiently well informed’) are key factors that explain this difference.
Finally, the analysis showed that prices of meat diverge across the EU, but the differences are related to differences in comparable consumer prices. However, overall, the level of consumers' satisfaction with the price of meat is rather low.