North America: Consumer insight

Consumer research into the North America market highlights four themes when it comes to all food choices:

  • Affordability
  • Taste
  • Health and nutritional quality
  • Naturalness

Source: Euromonitor International Limited, Lifestyles, Consumers Edition 2022

Superior taste is a top propriety for North American consumers and this plays heavily into shopping habits. There are region-specific dishes and trends, as well as a diverse selection of dishes which blend a range of cultures and traditions. For example, the fusion between American and Hispanic cuisine led to the popular Tex-Mex meals.

During the COVID-19 pandemic there was a meaningful shift in global perceptions of health and wellbeing, and this is strongly reflected in consumer eating trends. While affordability of food still outweighs every other factor across North America, health is an increasingly important priority for consumers. Therefore, communicating health benefits and highlighting the naturalness of products will be integral to value.

When they shop, consumers in the USA and Canada gravitate strongly towards naturalness, organic, and the specific health and nutritional qualities food provides. Furthermore, there are signs in the market of interest in non-GMO and hormone-free product, which link into consumers’ desire for naturalness.

Meat buying behaviour in North America

The 2022 AHDB study Understanding red meat buying behaviours in North America highlights three factors which have the most impact on meat purchases: quality, price and taste.

Quality is the most influential factor from the study, a common trend across world regions. Price and value are also important drivers and show no signs of easing as the region responds to the cost-of-living crisis. Often price has a significant impact on consumers at the point of purchase, so justifying price points for British meat products will be crucial for exporters.

With taste also featuring in the top three factors, there is a real opportunity for exporters to communicate the exceptional taste of British meat products.

Figure 1. Top factors when choosing meat products in the USA, Canada and Mexico (left to right = most to least important)

Source: AHDB 2022

Perceptions of British

According to the AHDB study above, British red meat remains niche for many consumers in North America. USA and Canada consumers rate the quality of British red meat in line with their domestic product for most criteria. In Mexico we found that consumers have a more positive perception of British red meat, with quality, price and value performing above domestic product.

The study shows that amplifying messages around quality and taste could offer British red meat exporters a strong foothold in North America, while justifying any premium price point.

A potential non-tariff barrier for UK exporters is that US grading systems are different to those used in the UK. Standards such as USDA Prime, Choice and Canada Prime and AAA are widely understood and used throughout the food industry in the region. There is a need to explain and educate trade customers and consumers of how UK product will differ from the mainstream domestic offer.

Dairy buying behaviour

In the USA, evidence from Euromonitor shows that inflation is causing a shift in preferences for consumers, with many seeking value for money in dairy. However, they highlight opportunity for innovation through premiumisation, new products and flavours. Consumers are also seeking dairy products with additional fortification, higher protein and fat-free.

In Canada, higher value growth is expected to be driven by demand for the more premium dairy products that are ethically sourced and organic. There are opportunities in Canada for British exporters to demonstrate the UK’s high welfare and sustainable farming standards.

In Mexico, the overall value sales of dairy are expected to grow more rapidly than elsewhere in the region. Communicating the health benefits and functional properties of dairy to consumers will help drive sales.