PRACTICALLY overnight, the ubiquity of smartphones has given Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) new options for helping consumers get the best out of their red meat purchases.
MLA has long spoken to consumers through print, in the form of its magazine Entice, and more recently through the website www.beefandlamb.com.au, which is an encyclopaedia of recipes for different meat cuts.
The sudden phenomenon of a smartphone in everyone’s pocket had given MLA a new channel for communicating with consumers but first, said Matt Dwyer, who heads up MLA’s digital marketing program, MLA needed to find a new way of communicating.
MLA’s first attempt at an app was Beef Essentials, launched in October 2011, an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ program that linked knowledge about beef cuts and how they cooked to a wealth of recipes.
It is a sign of the times that only three years ago, Beef Essentials’ target was ‘young beef lovers’, on the assumption that it would be younger people more likely to have a smartphone in their pockets.
A lot has changed. It’s not just young people carrying smartphones, and despite getting about 7000 downloads of Beef Essentials in its first eight months, MLA realised that the ‘kitchen sink’ approach, while looking attractive on the app store, didn’t necessarily mean high usage.
When people pull out a smartphone to consult it for information, they want the experience to be as simple as possible.
In 2013, MLA began to roll out the results of this thinking – tightly focused apps that did limited things, but did those things well.
First came LambRoast, which performed the simple task of helping people cook their $20 investment to perfection, or using other cuts to get a lamb meal on the table in 30 minutes.
SteakMate followed, which performed a similar task for steak.
“A lot of people are unsure about how to cook steak,” Mr Dwyer said.
And a few weeks ago, MLA launched the Beef Essentials concept in a more focused, accessible form called MeatCuts.
The app uses Meat Standards Australia (MSA) research showing how different cuts function under different cooking methods to help people standing before the meat counter make some quick, sound decisions on what they might buy.
The app features 41 beef cuts, 25 lamb cuts, 21 veal and 20 goat cuts, explaining where on the animal each cut originates, the most suitable cooking methods and why.
The app also features 107 recipes – one recipe for each cut – along with alternative cut suggestions for each recipe should the selected cut not be available at retail.
For the Japanese market – a major purchaser of Australian beef – MLA revised the interface in Japanese and changed some of the parameters and recipes to suit the Japanese way of eating.
An update to SteakMate is also with MLA’s contract software developer. MLA works out the app focus and design internally but contracts out the build.
Proof of MLA’s success in using the ‘app channel’ to reach consumers lies in the apps’ reception.
Since its October 2013 launch, SteakMate has been downloaded more than 45,000 times.
MeatCuts was launched in August 2014, and has already been downloaded more than 22,000 times from around the world.
MeatCuts was also featured by Apple as one of the best new apps in the iOS App Store in the week it launched, a valuable way to boost exposure.
At the moment, no new apps are being developed but experience over the past year has shown MLA that it has a valuable new channel for helping consumers get maximum value and enjoyment out of red meat.
“If we want to do something, we’ve got multiple channels to reach consumers through,” Mr Dwyer said.
“It can go into Entice, onto beefandlamb.com, through social media – or into an app.”