Beef sales robust despite horse meat scandal

Beef sales robust despite horse meat scandal

Fresh and frozen beef sales have remained steady in the UK despite the horse meat scandal, with the value of purchases in the latest four-week period rising 2%, and just a 1% drop in volumes, latest retail figures have revealed.

The Kantar Worldpanel detailed data for the four-week period to 17th February reveals 14% increased volume sales of steaks and mince, with expenditure on these two categories rising 8% and 6% respectively, with a 9% increase in the number of households buying these products.

However, fresh and frozen beef burger volumes were down 35% compared with the same period last year. Chilled and frozen ready meals were also down, all likely the result of the horse meat investigations. At this stage though it is hard to evaluate how much of the consumption change can be attributed to consumer concerns around the horse meat investigations and how much was impacted by the removal of products from shelves by some retailers.

“The beef sales data is reassuring. Millions of packs of beef products have been removed from sale which inevitably has a negative effect on the bottom line figures so to see just a one per cent fall in volume means more people are turning to fresh, assured beef, trading up from value end products,” said Nick Allen, sector director at EBLEX, who revealed the figures today.

“Throughout the crisis, we have been pushing the message that consumers need to be looking for fresh, assured beef products to give confidence in provenance and traceability, and these figures do suggest that is happening.

“A one per cent swing one way or the other is seen regularly in the ebb and flow of sales figures, so to have this set against the backdrop of horsegate in encouraging. However, it still remains to be seen whether or not there is any long-term damage to trade.”

On the lamb front, there was also encouraging news, with UK retail sales up 44% on this time last year, driven by a huge 143% leap in legs of lamb sold. Expenditure in the 12-week period rose 13% year-on-year to £159 million. However, the data does not distinguish between domestic and imported product. With imports from New Zealand up 77% in January compared to the same period a year ago, and with the liveweight SQQ average recovering slightly but still at least 10% down on 2012, there is some way to go before sheep meat producers see decent returns from their enterprises.

“There is movement in the right direction, both on retail sales and farmgate prices, but the sales data is masking significant imported product,” added Nick.

“It is a reversal of fortune from where we were this time last year though with shrinking space in stores, falling penetration and high retail prices forcing lamb towards becoming a niche product only.

“The reality remains however that despite the liveweight SQQ on 6th March averaging 183.0p/kg, a six-month record, and deadweight lamb prices up 43p since the middle of January to a five-month high, it is still a tough marketplace for lamb at the moment.”

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