Subscribe to MLA's e-newsletters

Stay informed with the latest red meat and livestock industry news, events, research and marketing.

Sign up
Back to News & Events

App serves up consumers’ eating habits

28 June 2023

The red meat industry now has better understanding of how consumers eat thanks to MLA’s research into the ‘moment of consumption’.  

The Consumer Protein Landscape (CPL) research used mobile technology to collect meal consumption data from 2,100 consumers, providing insights into how industry can better market products to drive demand. 

Meal diary 

Over seven days, the consumers (aged 15–74) captured every meal and snack they ate via an app. They recorded their consumption in real-time, which improved the accuracy of data collected. 

Collectively, the app captured: 

  • 50,116 meal occasions 
  • 85,000 meal images 
  • motivations and reasons for eating the meal
  • the meal occasion types (such as their location, activities, and if they ate alone or with others)
  • time and day.

The insights provided by this food consumption diary highlighted the needs and motivations of food choices within various consumer demographics.  

For example, the research provided information on: 

  • eating moments throughout the day
  • needs and motivations when eating
  • social behaviours when eating
  • role of proteins on different occasions
  • health and nutrition
  • tastes based on ethnicity
  • foodservice and retail
  • opportunity volume sizing.

When, why and how we eat 

Here’s a closer look at some of the CPL insights. 

What do meals throughout the day look like?  

A quarter of the day’s total food consumption happens at breakfast – however, what people do while eating breakfast differs between generations: 

  • Those aged 15–19 typically eat breakfast while watching TV.
  • Those aged 60 and older demonstrate more traditional behaviour, with about one-third of breakfasts eaten while sitting at the table.
  • Mothers aged 30–39 eat 54% of breakfasts while they are preparing for the day or getting children ready.

At lunch, consumers typically seek meals which are quick, easy and convenient, with enough calories to fill them up and keep them going through the afternoon. However, those who eat lunch late are more susceptible to choosing a meal that will primarily satisfy their cravings.   

During dinner, 40% of meals are eaten while watching TV, compared with 31% sitting at the table – and those aged 60-74 prefer the table. For child-centric families, healthy and easy meals are the most sought after, and beef mince and sausages are prominent choices. 

Dinner is the red meat heartland 

Fresh meat consumption is relatively low during breakfast – an occasion where processed pork is the most popular meat protein.  

More than 60% of red meat consumption occurs during dinner.   

Meals with beef typically include mince and bread for a burger, or steak and veggies. Meals with lamb are more likely to include chops or a roast with carrots and baked potato.   

While convenience is a key driver across meals and snacks, red meat is also associated with being a comforting food on many occasions. The popularity of beef mince is also driven strongly by its versatility and ease-of-use in a range of different meals. 

Emotional eating increases as the week (or day) progresses 

Functional drivers of food choice are higher at the start of the week, when consumers are motivated to choose meals which are healthy, energising and relatively simple to prepare. 

However, towards Friday, Saturday and Sunday, emotional drivers are stronger. Many will choose food to: 

  • fulfil an indulgence or reward
  • feel enjoyment or fun 
  • connect with friends or loved ones
  • eat something different or special.

Red meat-centric meals consumed on the weekend are still typically eaten during dinner (66%) with only a third eaten at lunch. 

A similar pattern emerges as the day progresses – functional drivers are very prominent early in the day whereas emotionally-focussed drivers are more prevalent in the latter half of the day.   

As such, providing red meat options to meet each motivation – whether functional or emotional – is critical to expanding sales and markets. 

How to use this information 

For producers and brand owners who are seeking opportunities to expand their knowledge of consumer consumption habits of red meat, the CPL insights provide a deeper understanding of why certain proteins are chosen across different meals.  

By understanding the drivers of choice and consumers’ relationship with red meat, underpinned with their needs and motivations, this provides the opportunity for differentiation and expansion of red meat solutions into other occasions, including breakfast, snacks and beyond.