The heart’s connected to the wallet

The current economy — supply chain issues, rising costs and overall uncertainty — has consumers looking to cut expenses wherever possible. When it comes to food, one solution is to eat more meals at home which pushes consumers to search for more discounts, coupons and ways to reduce their grocery spend. This requires extra investment of time and energy to ensure their food dollars are being used wisely and subsequently this leads to consumers have more of an emotional investment in their grocery purchases.

At-home meal making and consumption is expected to stay elevated for the next few years, according to research from The NPD Group, Chicago. NPD’s Future of Dinner report forecasts that in-home dinners will remain at a heightened level through 20241. “More dinner meals at home are here to stay,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “The shifting population life stages and economic situation will create greater reliance on dinner at home.” This means it’s more important than ever that meat and poultry manufacturers make efforts to keep products as fresh and safe as possible, while still providing consumers the desired sensory experience.

Indeed, shoppers are investing more emotion into their food purchases. They assess product value in terms of freshness, nutritional quality and personal satisfaction. Earning their trust starts with quality product that does not disappoint once it enters the home. “Consumers have concerns about fresh meat when it starts to turn brown,” says Megan Passman, global insights manager, Corbion, Lenexa, Kan. “Corbion’s proprietary research2 shows that shoppers find color to be the number-one indicator of freshness when purchasing meat products.”

Finding ways to maintain freshness in products is critical when outside factors have a greater impact on the overall food supply chain. Challenges in labor and transportation that increase product hold and transit times on a fresh, shorter shelf-life products create difficulties for the manufacturer, the retailer and the consumer. Garrett McCoy, senior manager, research and development at Corbion, says, “Our customers can incorporate ingredients such as antioxidants, to their fresh meat products, to help maintain color and freshness over the shelf life of the product.”

The age old adage tells us that you eat with your eyes first and a similar phrase could be attributed to how consumers make purchase decisions and consume meat. Consumers look for a bright red color in the store and expect the product to maintain that appealing color until they are ready to use it as part of a broader meal. When the product’s color reaches an undesirable stage before utilization, a consumer is left with a tough decision. “They see it (meat turning brown) as being unsafe to consume and either return it at the expense of the manufacturer or throw it away,” says Passman. It is never easy to throw away food that is perceived to be past its prime but with rising food costs, it has the potential to cause additional emotional frustration.

Coming out of the pandemic, consumers have also begun to put more emphasis on reducing their food waste contribution. News stories, social media and empty store shelves raised awareness that food is not to be taken for granted. Nearly six in ten Americans (57%)3 are concerned about food waste, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC), Washington, D.C. Among those who are concerned, the top reasons are because it is a waste of money (53%)3and there are people in need of food (51%)3.

To assist with reducing food waste, 37%3 of respondents said they are paying better attention to expiration dates. More than one in four (26%)3 said they find ways to eat foods that are slightly past their prime but still okay to eat.

“Knowing the inflationary pressures consumers face today, our insights team at Corbion wanted to better understand what consumers do with meat they feel is unsafe to use,” said Passman. “In our proprietary research, we found that two out of five (42%)4 consumers who are unsatisfied with their meat and poultry purchases will return them to the store and request a refund, while 18%4 simply throw it out.”

Over the course of the product’s shelf-life, it begins to naturally go through a process called oxidation. Oxidation in a meat product could be in a variety of forms but can impact not only a product’s color but also its flavor.

“As an ingredient solution and service provider, Corbion can assist manufacturers with balancing consumer expectations by incorporating antioxidants to help maintain those quality and sensory attributes from the store or distribution center all the way through to the shopper’s door,” says Amber Beckett, senior business development and product manager, Corbion. “Corbion leverages nature’s ability to preserve freshness with its Origin® portfolio of natural, consumer-friendly antioxidant solutions. They help deliver increased freshness and a product label that appeals to today’s shoppers.”

When used in fresh meat applications,  natural antioxidants can help delay the effects of oxidation while maintaining a consumer-friendly labeling declaration. Corbion developed its Origin® Powder RO2, a unique natural rosemary solution that provides outstanding antioxidant functionality without unduly impacting flavor.

“Our natural rosemary is grown wild and sustainably harvested in Morocco and comes with an authenticity guarantee. By using the brand name “Origin” we wanted to communicate the focus on transparency, from the final product to the natural source. We work very closely with our supplier-partners to ensure attention to equity and opportunities for regions that are often passed over in the value chain in spite of being the natural source of these high value plant-based products” says Beckett.

“In addition to our rosemary products, another cornerstone of our antioxidant portfolio is our natural and label-friendly acerola cherry extract. Acerola grows naturally in Brazil, and through our supplier-partner we maintain a close connection to local famers to ensure Corbion is able to reliably supply a high quality, sustainably sourced product. “Rich in ascorbic acid, our acerola extract delays the formation of metmyoglobin pigment, ensuring meat retains its fresh red color longer. Additionally, it is a great fit for a natural cure system, offering a label-friendly replacement to sodium erythorbate to allow for natural cure acceleration.”

McCoy, concludes, “Our primary aim in bringing decades of meat industry expertise and top-quality ingredients to our collaborative partnerships with customers is always to add value. The Origin® range, for instance, provides benefits that include processing improvements, certified authenticity and sustainable sourcing.”

1=Future of Dinner, The NPD Group, 2022
2=Corbion Proprietary Survey 2021
3=Food & Health Survey, International Food Information Council, 2022
4=Corbion Proprietary Survey 2022