Industry News

Lamb options in the meat case feed consumer cravings for more variety

October 22, 2020
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This post is sponsored by Thomas Foods.

Consumers are hungry for healthy foods that will bring some variety to their home cooking routine. Grass-fed lamb -- with its dense nutritional profile and versatile flavor -- can be a great option for helping shoppers shake up their grocery carts.

Versatile flavor works for weeknight meals or special occasions

More than half of shoppers (55%) are eating at home more often amid the pandemic, according to an Acosta report, including 33% of shoppers who said they are eating dinner at home every day, compared to 21% pre-pandemic. With so many more meals being cooked at home, consumers are craving ways to mix things up with new ingredients and recipes.

This desire for variety has spurred US consumers to take another look at lamb, which many people had previously purchased only for holidays and special occasion meals.

“During the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, retailers found consumers reaching for protein products they normally may not consider,” said Frank Tarantino, president of Thomas Foods International, USA, which imports grass-fed lamb, beef and goat from Australia. “That trend has continued for lamb as we have experienced growth in lamb sales since March.”

Lamb sales have seen significant gains in dollar sales compared with 2019, with sales up as much as 39% year-over-year during the last several months, according to IRI data.


Asian BBQ lamb chops with crispy Asian slaw (Image: Thomas Foods)

“Since consumers are cooking more at home, they are continuously looking for new meal ideas. Lamb fits nicely into their menu planning as a versatile, affordable protein,” said Tarantino, who noted that lamb lends itself to just about any recipe where consumers would use beef or pork.

Beyond simply substituting lamb into recipes they may already make with beef or pork, lamb can be a source of culinary inspiration for consumers. The flavor of grass-fed lamb works in a wide range of cuisines and recipes -- from beer- and mustard-marinated rack of lamb to Asian BBQ lamb chops served with a crispy cabbage slaw.

Nutrition profile appeals to health-conscious consumers

In addition to its adaptable flavor, lamb’s nutritional profile is likely another reason US shoppers are adding it to their carts. Consumers are putting more emphasis on healthy foods this year, with 44% of consumers saying they have been eating healthier in response to the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Datassential.

“Grass-fed Australian lamb is full of nutrients, including iron and zinc and is a lean source of protein,” said Tarantino, adding that lamb contains four times more iron than chicken and twice the amount found in pork. It’s also low in calories and a source of omega-3 fatty acids -- the same healthy fat found in fish.

Carving out a place for lamb in the meat case

Adding lamb to the meat case can help retailers capitalize on its appeal to consumers looking for versatile and healthy protein options. Choosing the right cuts is key, as is shopper education for consumers who may not be familiar with the lamb. 

“Offering a variety of lamb cuts throughout the year helps increase visibility and consumer acceptance,” said Tarantino. “We have product cuts similar to beef, such as the lamb porterhouse. This nomenclature helps consumers better understand how to prepare and serve the product.”

Thomas Foods works with retailers via an omnichannel approach to help educate consumers on the benefits and versatility of lamb.

“Thomas Foods offers the traditional in-store support along with a range of digital platforms,” Tarantino explained. “We provide retailers the flexibility of private-label branding or a branded product. Either way, we support them through multiple platforms, helping ensure their success.”

Learn more about the benefits and versatility of Australian grass-fed lamb and Thomas Foods’ meat retailer services.