"Say hey, good lookin' Whatcha got cookin'? How's about cookin' somethin' up with me?" Now I know Hank Williams wasn't talking about putting on an apron and swapping recipes, but the song comes to mind when I think about how Americans have been "coronacoping" and experimenting in the culinary department. From smoking meat and baking sourdough bread to a canning craze that is putting stores in short supply of lids and cans, consumers are cooped up and ready to get creative in the kitchen.
They're also finding a place for some protein products they may have previously overlooked.
Ground pork sales have surged since March 1 with weekly increases ranging from 69% growth early in the pandemic buying period to 22% growth for the week ending July 26. From March through the end of July, ground pork sales are up 27%, and 45% of households purchasing ground pork during this time had not purchased it in the previous 12 months.
"That's really good news for an item that has been on shelf for a long time," says Neal Hull, director of Channel Marketing for the National Pork Board. "It would be a brand marketer's dream to have that type of new household penetration on an item and really what we're trying to do at the Checkoff is to ensure that we're continuing to communicate the opportunity throughout the supply chain."
According to Pork Checkoff research, the top usage for ground pork has been for meatloaf and meatball recipes, but Hull says Google analytics have shown searches for egg roll bowl recipes have become quite popular.
With nine out of 10 of these new ground pork consumers saying they are likely to purchase the product again, Hull says the Pork Checkoff goal is to make sure that packers and retailers are capitalizing on the opportunity.
"They like ground pork. They're coming back to buy it a second and third time, and we just need to make sure that we've got it merchandised, one where it is easy to find, and two where we're giving them inspiration and ideas," Hull says. "This whole concept of 'pandemic cooking' … you cook at home; you try new recipes … ground pork is a great item. It's versatile and can go a lot of different directions from as easy as a pork burger … to multicultural dishes, from egg roll bowls to wontons to pork nachos. It's just a versatile and flavorful item that we want to continue to keep in front of consumers because they've shown that they like it."
Finally, since March, ground pork has brought in the highest percentage of new shoppers to the ground segment compared to other ground meats. Take that ground beef and ground turkey.
Teasing the competition aside, it seems we've found an answer to Hank's burning question, "whatcha got cookin'?" It's ground pork.