Alternative Meat Product Managers Make Plans To Win More Customers

Product managers think that this might be the time to take over
Product managers think that this might be the time to take over
Image Credit: Marco Verch

So how do you feel about eating meat? For that matter, how do you feel about eating meat alternatives that are made from plants? Plant-based meat product managers are racing to update their product development definition and fill in for missing cuts of traditional meat in supermarket meat cases, after the coronavirus disrupted operations at meatpacking plants. How are product managers going to seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make their products more successful?

Where’s The Beef?

These companies, like Beyond Meat Inc., Impossible Foods Inc. and Tofurky Co. say they are ramping up production, discounting their plant-based meat alternatives in order to appeal to more consumers and expanding into more stores—sometimes at the request of grocery chains that are running short of staple meat products.

Product managers realize that this is a peak moment for trial potential among regular meat eaters. The pandemic has upended the $213 billion U.S. meat industry, forcing industry giants including Tyson Foods Inc., JBS USA Holdings Inc., Smithfield Foods Inc. and Cargill Inc. to temporarily close their plants. The reason that the plants have had to close is because nearly 5,000 workers have fallen ill, and at least 20 have died. Shutdowns and slower production at other plants, as concerned workers remained home, drove beef, pork and other red meat production 28% lower last week compared with the same period last year.

For many consumers, the result is emptier supermarket meat cases, higher prices and, in some stores run by chains including Kroger Co., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Albertsons Cos., purchase limits on how much fresh meat they can buy. Closed meat plants are starting to reopen, but grocery chains are bracing for supplies to be disrupted for weeks. Those shortages are hitting food retailers and restaurants as the summer weekends usher in what is ordinarily peak grilling season in the U.S.

How To Make Meat Alternatives A Success

Traditional meat sales still dwarf the new plant-based challengers, accounting for around 99% of the total volume of meat sold in the U.S. Producers of plant-based meat alternatives, which have battled to get their products stocked alongside traditional beef, pork and chicken, now see a chance to grab grocery store turf and win over more consumers.

Grocery store sales of fresh alternative-meat products rose by 264% in the past nine weeks, a $25.7 million increase and faster than they were growing before the crisis hit the U.S. Success like this can look good on anyone’s product manager resume. Fresh meat sales rose 45%, or by $3.8 billion, over that period. Product managers at Impossible began selling 12-ounce packages of its burger products in about 1,700 Kroger supermarkets.

The company is rerouting some of its products from restaurant chains to grocery stores, and expects Impossible’s burgers to be available in more than 20,000 stores. With disruption in the animal-based meat supply, grocery chains more motivated than ever. Customers are reporting that they are considering buying an Impossible Whopper for the first time after seeing reports of Wendy’s Co. running out of fresh beef and grocery stores restricting meat sales.

What All Of This Means For You

There have been alternative meat products for quite some time. However, none of them have really caught on with consumers. However, with the arrival of the Covid-19 virus, the traditional meat supply chains have been disrupted. This has opened a door of opportunity for product managers that they are trying to use their product manager job description to take advantage of.

The companies that make meat alternatives are starting to ramp up their production. Meat processing plants have had to close because so many of their workers have contracted the Covid-19 virus. Customers are discovering empty meat cases at their grocery stores, higher prices for what is available, and in some cases limits on the amount of meat that they can purchase. Product managers at the meat alternative companies see this as an opportunity. Sales of meat alternatives are starting to soar. Alternative meat products are being routed from restaurants to grocery stores. This is truly a unique time for alternative meat product managers. They had planned on making their products more popular over time. However, since the world has been turned upside down by the Covid-19 virus their plans have had to change. If they are able to supply grocery stores with the quantities of alternative meat products that they require, this may be the time that they can get customers to select their product and then never look back.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that alternative meat suppliers should also go after restaurants now?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I have a dog. I suspect that many of you have pets also. I can only speak for myself, but I sure seem to spend a lot of money on food, leashes, toys, clothes, etc. for my dog. You would think with this need to keep buying things in order to take care of my pet, pet store product managers would have a very easy life. It turns out that you would be wrong. So what’s going on here – why are pet store product managers struggling and do they need to change their product development definition?