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02 December 2021

Innovation as a stimulus to the consumption of meat products

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The slowdown in the consumption of meat products in Spain in recent years, especially due to the growing interest in new food alternatives and greater environmental and animal welfare awareness, is driving innovation upwards. This is a strategy with which the meat industry is seeking to win back old customers, win over new consumer profiles and deepen the health, convenience, and hedonistic components of its products. In the post-covid era, other trends such as safety, naturalness and proximity are also expected to influence purchasing decisions.

That is why one of the major protagonists in terms of innovation, and common to all product categories and species, continues to be the healthy driver, a demand increasingly demanded by domestic and foreign consumers. Reductions in salt and fat percentage, higher meat content and Clean Label recipes are the main focuses of attention both in the fresh meat market and in the market for cured and cooked products. Frimancha and its 'Zero' hamburgers, with no additives or sulfites, or Casademont's 'Natura' range, with no phosphates, no allergens, no added sugars, no gluten, low in fat and reduced in salt (25%), are two of the latest proposals to reach the market.

Some others have gone a step further, already working on the replacement of animal fat with olive oil. This is the case of ElPozo and Argal, which have presented lines of fresh meat products for the former, and cold cuts and pates for the latter, marketed under the brands 'Oliva Pork' and 'Argal Oliving', respectively. The wave of fortified meats, another of the world's great consumer innovations, has its champion in Spain in Cárnicas Serrano's new hamburgers, made with chicken meat and 30% roasted vegetables.

Meanwhile, greater interest in animal welfare is translating into new certifications. According to the study carried out by Aecoc in collaboration with Fecic (Meat and Meat Industry Business Federation), 35% of consumers say they would eat more meat if it had the animal welfare seal, and two out of three would pay more for this certification. Thus, the first product made from white-coat pork with the 'Certified Welfare Commitment' seal has already gone on sale, an 'Auchan' cooked ham, MDD of Alcampo and manufactured by ElPozo. In fresh products, it has been El Corte Inglés who has taken the first step to incorporate into its shelves fresh white layer pork guaranteed with the same seal, manufactured exclusively by Faccsa, while Procavi became the first Spanish turkey company to obtain the 'Welfair Animal Welfare' certification.

Other growing trends are organic production and the use of prestigious breeds, both with the aim of increasing the value of the products. Here, Hemosa with its brand 'Porkganic' and the Pontevedra-based cooperative Avega are at the forefront with packaged organic pork and chicken cuts, respectively. Embutidos Jabugo has extended its gourmet line 'Hamburdehesa', made with meat from animals raised in extensive farming, to include veal from Avila and Asturias. The eco trend has also attracted other general meat companies, such as Palacios, Noel, Señorío de Montanera, Cárnicas Serrano, La Hoguera, Casademont, Coren and Espuña. Meanwhile, in cured ham, for example, the company is promoting references with longer curing times (reserva and gran reserva), Duroc pork, organic ham and also certified hams (with ETG -Especialidad Tradicional Garantizada-, DO Jamón de Teruel and IGP Jamón de Trevélez).

More R&D in packaging and formats

In the last two years, there has been an upturn in demand for products aimed at individual and on-the-go consumption, such as snacks. Since Campofrío led the way with the revitalization of its 'Snack'in' range of cured sausages in 2018, companies such as Argal, Monter -which is a totaler of Mercadona-, and Noel Alimentaria have joined this trend, with flowpack-type packaging and grammages of between 20 g and 50 g.

All of the above must be combined with improved sustainability in packaging to meet growing environmental awareness. It should not be forgotten that 73% of consumers say they take environmental aspects into account; 57% prefer sustainable packaging; and, in addition, 37% are willing to pay more for it, according to the 'OCU New Economy & Social Innovation 2019'. Espuña, Noel, Costa Food, Monells, Boadas and Goikoa are just some of the manufacturers of processed meat products that have set out to lead the change with new presentations that entail a significant reduction in plastic content.