Letters to the Editor

Beef Checkoff's Investment in Consumer Research Provides Invaluable Promotional Roadmap

The views expressed are those of the individual authors and not necessarily those of DTN, its management or employees.


To the Editor:

Cattle have always been a part of my life. My three older sisters and I grew up on a dairy farm. I've worked as a veterinary medical technician, spent almost six years as a dairy herd improvement supervisor, and for the past 18 years, I've worked beside my husband, tending our cattle herd near Comfrey, Minnesota.

It's no surprise, then, that the beef industry is also very important to me. I'm truly passionate about it. I've been involved in the industry for many years on the local and state levels, and now as a member of the Cattlemen's Beef Board (CBB), which administers the national Beef Checkoff program. It's allowed me to help an industry I love continue to thrive. As a part of the CBB's Consumer Trust Committee, I work with other members and our contractors to help consumers feel good about choosing beef. In my role on the Checkoff Evaluation Committee, I help gauge the effectiveness of Beef Checkoff programs and whether they're achieving our goals.

Much of our work on the CBB boils down to ensuring we're promoting beef in ways that resonate with consumers. Years ago, I had the privilege of working in a sales department for a promotional products company. There, I learned that to sell something, you must be passionate and knowledgeable about your product, and perhaps even more importantly, you must understand your customers. What are they looking for? What do they need? What drives their behaviors?

These sales principles also apply to the beef industry, and that's where Checkoff-funded consumer research (https://www.beefresearch.org/…) comes in. Without research, we could only guess at what today's consumers are looking for at the grocery store or on the restaurant menu. We wouldn't have insight about their shopping habits, recipe trends or nutritional needs. By researching today's consumers, we can obtain that data and reach out to consumers with specific messages that encourage them to purchase beef, whether it's for a family dinner at home or a celebratory meal out on the town. Consumer research helps us invest Checkoff dollars in ways that will drive beef demand, which is our ultimate goal.

For example, we're currently entering the peak of summer grilling season, when around 30% of all beef products are sold annually in the U.S. Recent research (https://www.beefresearch.org/…) tells us, however, that increasing food costs, a decreased ability to save and a decline in consumer sentiment may cause consumers to focus more on value in 2024 than in previous years. While 96% still plan to grill this summer, they are more likely to buy cheaper cuts like ground beef, use more coupons and look for deals. So, it makes good sense to promote less-expensive beef cuts and develop new recipes for those cuts this summer. That information has manifested into a widely distributed press release (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…) on National Beef Burger Day and recipes for "Beef on a Budget" (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…) along with grilling tips (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…) at "Beef. It's What's For Dinner.com" (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…).

Something else to watch for this summer is "Beef. It's What's For Dinner's" partnership with Little League baseball (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…). Little League is a great "brand fit" with "Beef. It's What's For Dinner.," and it hits on known consumer demand drivers that we've uncovered with Checkoff-funded research, like health, nutrition and convenience. The Little League regional championships happen from June to August, right during the heart of summer grilling season. Furthermore, this partnership will allow us to communicate beef's benefits to one of our core audiences -- parents -- in all 50 states.

Grocery shopping research (https://www.beefresearch.org/…) also reveals that approximately 57% of consumers currently purchase at least some of their groceries online. To reach those consumers, the Beef Checkoff has initiated e-commerce partnerships with national grocery chains across the U.S. Through these partnerships, the Checkoff's Channel Marketing team can track a consumer from when they see a beef ad to when they purchase beef, showing a direct return on investment. In 2023, every $1 invested in these e-commerce campaigns resulted in $47 in beef sales, a tremendous ROI.

Other examples of Checkoff-funded research include a study about evolving consumer behavior and preferences related to the growing movement toward sustainability and environmental stewardship. That research has led to promotions like "Rethink the Ranch" (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…), an interactive map with links to stories about how beef producers are implementing their own environmental efforts, as well as a video series (https://www.youtube.com/…) and a press release (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…). There's also been a publicity push for the Beef Quality Assurance program called "The Right Way Is the Only Way" (https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/…) to show consumers how farmers and ranchers are caring for their animals and their land.

Clearly, without consumer research, investing Checkoff dollars would be like going on a trip with no destination or plan in mind and no roadmap. By investing in consumer research, we can uncover emerging trends, educate consumers and gain their trust in beef, develop effective promotions and squeeze more from every producer dollar. I see research as key to keeping the beef industry strong for future generations -- along with the dedicated producers who make it all happen.

Jeri Hanson, Comfrey, Minnesota

Member of the Cattlemen's Beef Board and the Beef Checkoff's Consumer Trust and Evaluation Committees


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