An Open Letter to the American Lamb Industry
If it seems that the number and frequency of American Lamb Board (ALB) promotions and education to consumers has intensified since March, you are right.
But, things have changed. The trials created by COVID-19 and the upheaval in 2020 lamb packing and marketing options is on everyone’s mind almost constantly – and that includes the ALB directors. Some projections indicate that consumer demand for American lamb could be down 25% in 2020 and it is unknown to what degree, the foodservice market that once accounted for 40-50% of American lamb consumption will return.
For ALB, that has meant a change of focus. As dining out decreased, the home cook became the targeted consumer. Educating these consumers, many cooking American lamb for the first time, became paramount. So did reaching consumers in their homes.
Events that were previously held live, like ALB’s 11th Lamb Jam Tour, went virtual. More than 1,000 American lamb consumers purchased advance tickets to view presentations from U.S. sheep producers, top chefs, butchers and beverage experts, and receive a coupon to purchase American lamb at their local grocery store.
The American lamb burger took center stage in an online #Glamburger consumer challenge where consumers were encouraged to create their own burger or order from a local restaurant. ALB promoted burger recipes, shared videos of how to craft a delicious lamb burger, and offered a free spice blend for those looking to spice-up their #Glamburger creation at home.
To reach home cooks, ALB also teamed with Texas grocery chain H-E-B for a summer promotion using the chain’s dietitians, who participated in a webinar and received coupons and information packets to promote American lamb to their customers.
Restaurants haven’t left the picture entirely, and people still love to have someone else cook for them. A goal of your checkoff has been a promotion with a chain restaurant. We’ve accomplished that. Taziki’s Mediterranean Café, with more than 90 restaurants in 17 states, proved a valuable partner, teaming with ALB to promote char-grilled American lamb dishes this fall, including a take-home Lamb Family Feast. The effort included in-store signage and promotions, recipe ideas and a social media campaign. Taziki’s takes ALB foodservice efforts beyond fine-dining.
Recipes for new lamb cooks are crucial. To make cooking American lamb at summer cookouts easier, ALB produced an Easy Entertaining cookbook. A new American Lamb Comfort Classics cookbook offers ideas for comfort foods featuring American lamb as a modern twist on traditional favorites.
The change in focus appears to be helping entice consumers to eat lamb. According to a report from IRI, during the period from March 15 to August 9, 2020, retail lamb volume sales increased 20.8 percent versus the same period one year ago, an additional 4.6 million pounds of lamb sold, and dollar sales of lamb increased 30.5%.
American lamb processors and distributors have filled retail meat cases with more home kitchen friendly, albeit less expensive, cuts to meet demand. The lingering recession likely means it will be some time before the market shifts back to prioritizing loins and racks served in restaurants over more modest cuts cooked and served at home. You may recall that ALB has been putting emphasis on ground product the past several months to offer consumers a familiar entry into lamb, and with the current situation that makes a lot of sense.
ALB is prepared to face the coming months confident your checkoff dollars are enticing consumers to make American lamb part of their diet. Whatever comes in 2021, you can be sure your American Lamb Board, and the entire American lamb industry, will meet the challenges head-on just like we have in 2020.
Thank you for your continued support and valuable input. You can reach the American Lamb Board by phone, 303-759-3001 ext. 2, or by email: info@AmericanLamb.com. And, remember that LambResourceCenter.com is open 24/7/365 for you.
–American Lamb Board
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Earl cartoon by Big Dry Syndicate for the Oct. 23, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News