BEEF was the king of surging retail meat sales during panic buying, recording a whopping 28 per cent volume uplift during March, and it was mince and sausages that were in the hottest demand, the latest grocery spend data shows.
The Nielsen Homescan data shows that for the four weeks until the end of March, the Australian grocery sector experienced unprecedented sales - 18 per cent higher than the Christmas month in 2019.
Beef experienced the highest volume growth of all fresh meat, with mince, rump, beef sausages and sirloin all in the top ten cuts.
To build on that strong consumer affection for beef, the industry's marketers are now working on understanding exactly what has driven the changing purchasing behaviour.
Is beef popular because mince is so familiar, so versatile and loved by everyone in the family? Was it in demand due to the health and nutrition value of beef against the backdrop of a health pandemic?
Did the fact pubs and restaurants shut mean people were looking to replicate their favourite steaks at home?
Research and marketing body Meat & Livestock Australia is running consumer research delving into the attributes that are placing red meat at the forefront of what people see as a can't-do-without staple food.
"Understanding not just what, but why, becomes so instructive for us going forward," said MLA's chief marketing and communications officer Lisa Sharp.
"We are asking what can we learn from this, how can we cement this new purchasing behaviour."
The marketing job in the initial panic buying phase was largely around ensuring consumers had all the information needed about how to safely store, freeze, thaw and use beef to ensure there was no reputational risk as a result of people using frozen product, Ms Sharp explained.
Then the focus moved to education around cuts, cook type and meals.
Carcase balance has become an issue for value chain profitability as some consumers flock to the lower-value cuts and less higher value cuts are sold in food service.
"So we are working on ensuring consumers have the information and inspiration to use the entire suite of cuts," Ms Sharp said.
"There will be more beef available on retail shelves as some of the earlier delays experienced in the supply chain are ironed out and we want to make sure all products - eye fillet, sirloin and mince - is being selected."
MLA data collection shows Google searches for home cooking has gone through the roof since social distancing measures began.
"We've been working through social media analysis and online search behavior, and with our partners such as chefs, athletes and dieticians, are keen to ensure beef is front and centre as people look for this information," Ms Sharp said.
"As the panic settles, we also want to ensure beef is top of mind in online catalogues - fresh meat online grocery sales grew by 65pc in March and while this has eased as consumers adapt to lockdown, we believe online will continue to be a strong channel going forward."
MLA has relaunched its Australian Beef The Greatest campaign, tailoring the end frame to introducing the idea of new cuts, cooking styles and meals.
Screens advertising - television, video and social - will focus heavily on different cuts.
And a major national promotion which taps into the many recipes MLA has in its coffers is being finalised.
"We are mindful in these times, Australians will value brands that make their lives easier and are authentic," Ms Sharp said.
"Beef has that. It has the health, versatility and enjoyment attributes people want and there is a trust for producers - it's a matter of building on that with the practical information consumers are seeking at the moment."