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Seven of every 10 food shoppers don't know what they will buy until after they're in the store. One consortium hopes to capitalize on that indecision using market research technology that pinpoints purchasing patterns at the meat counter and analyzing the data so the livestock industry can ultimately add value to products in demand.

"Much is written in business today about being consumer driven," says Frank Beurskens of AgriBiz & Associates Inc., a Buffalo, N.Y., strategic consulting firm. "But it seems the sales-driven marketing model still dominates the industry create the product and push it into the marketplace. This is in contrast to the marketing-driven sales model that seeks to understand consumers and deliver products and services in response. We want to know what consumers search for at the point of decision-making."

Beurskens and his firm are taking the first step toward testing marketing-driven sales for the livestock industry with a pilot project this fall in four retail grocery stores in western New York. Interactive kiosks managed by ShoptoCook Inc. have been placed near meat and poultry counters in the stores to gather research data. The kiosks operate with a proprietary meal solutions database. Shoppers can select among three recipes at the kiosks based on their selected cuts of meat or poultry.

"The kiosk captures detail on the selected cuts and recipes viewed to then discover purchasing patterns and relationships of interest to both the store and to food manufacturers," Beurskens says. "Our goal is to use the data to increase meat, poultry, seafood and grocery sales."


Beurskens says the ShoptoCook model was developed with several key factors in mind, including decision support technology, new product development, food safety and traceability, food marketing and consumer food purchasing trends. Pilot project sponsors include the New York Beef Industry Council through producer checkoff dollars, Meat and Livestock Australia for lamb promotion, various meat and poultry suppliers and food manufacturers.

"We have found there are plenty of opportunities to influence shoppers at the point of decision-making," Beurskens says. He cites a recent study conducted by the National Pork Board that found consumers spend an average of four minutes in the meat section compared to one minute in others. About 82 percent of consumers examine and compare meat and poultry packages before making selections.

"Not all consumers can make the creative leap from product to plate, particularly on the spot and in a rush," Beurskens says. "In-store displays, promotions and product demonstrations can influence those decisions but are costly to execute. ShoptoCook assists shoppers in meal planning at the point of decision-making and provides information so that we can place a better value on consumer access at the point of decision-making."

ShoptoCook sponsors will use information gathered from the kiosks this fall to formulate marketing strategies.

"Retail interactive displays will become commonplace in the next three years, as we sift through data created by these interactive tools and provide researchers with additional consumer insight," Beurskens predicts. "Retail self-scan checkout is already common in grocery stores, and kiosk check-ins are found at airlines and rail stations."


Not only will consumers, food manufacturers and retailers benefit from ShoptoCook, Beurskens believes the livestock industry and others will learn to develop retail product branding strategies that capitalize on farm management practices and give producers a premium.

"Historically, individual producers have not invested heavily in market research since they produce commodities. In commodity markets, the consumer is anonymous and standards-based production is pushed on the market with price as the only feedback mechanism," he says.

"Migrating from a commodity mentality to a marketing mentality is a leap that requires honoring consumer desires and diversity," Beurskens says. "To meet future marketing opportunities will require greater information about consumers and producers. The result of greater consumer information will be choice. What individual producers do with that choice is up to them."

Organizations interested in ShoptoCook can contact Beurskens at AM

Barb Baylor Anderson is a freelance writer from Edwardsville, Ill., who covers a wide variety of ag issues.

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