Biggest ever Christmas for meat, fish and poultry
While we might be putting Christmas excesses behind us and starting the New Year with the very best intentions, the market data covering the all-important festive period (12 weeks to 31st December) is hot off the presses today.
These figures show Christmas was the biggest ever, with value and volume both in growth in the Meat, Fish and Poultry (MFP) market. On a 12 week basis, fresh primary meat and poultry grew, but the real winner was fresh processed meat and poultry, with all categories showing strong value and volume growth. Conversely, sliced cooked meats and chilled fish both struggled in volume terms, but increased value sales compared to last year. We didn’t see inflation putting a dampener on the category as some commentators feared, with premium products growing this Christmas and an additional £1bn grocery spend ringing through the tills over the Christmas period.
MFP reflected many of the overall trends this Christmas, particularly the push for premium, which helped to deliver the biggest Christmas ever for the sector. Nathan Ward, Business Unit Director for MFP, explains: “Christmas is one of the most important periods of the year for producers and retailers, with great rewards for hitting the right deals and prices. Shoppers traditionally trade up at Christmas, whether through their choice of retailer or by choosing more premium products. Turkey performed well over the Christmas period; even after a strong 2016, 184,000 more shopping trips included turkey this year and the average trip cost 40p more. Whole birds and crowns enjoyed growth on last year as shoppers continued to pick up the classic choice for Christmas dinner.”
On a wider view, the strong performance of pork continues, with volume and value growing ahead of the market. Fresh pork is one of the top 10 markets in grocery being affected by inflation, with volume growing behind strong value figures. Growth is being driven by shoppers taking 1.75 million more trips, with steaks, leg joints and mince driving volume growth. Fresh Chicken continues to be one of the strongest deflationary markets with falling prices in breast, legs and whole Birds bringing average prices down by 3%.
Ward continues: “When we focus on the last four weeks of the year for Christmas, primary MFP growth accelerated compared to last year. Beef and lamb growth rates were significantly ahead of the 12 week figures and turkey growth accelerated in the run up to the festivities. As you might expect, the traditional 'Christmas Dinner' categories fared well, with turkey and other poultry (dominated by duck) seeing double digit growth in the 4 week period.” On the processed side of the market, we saw bacon (+4.7%) and sausages (+6.0%) both continued to grow, with the Christmas weeks providing a boost to both value and volume. We know that this is driven by people being likely to add them as extras to their Christmas dinner or eat more cooked breakfasts over the long Christmas weekends.
Chilled fish has continued to suffer in volume terms over Christmas, and the 12 week figures reflect a stark volume decline. However, the 4 week data shows a stronger story. When we look at the categories driving the decline we can see that added value has moved into value and volume decline as rising prices impact the market. Natural fish remains the largest category, with strong value growth masking the falling volumes in the market. Shellfish and smoked fish are seeing steep volume declines. December is traditionally a month of higher sales for smoked salmon, and this year was no different; value was up, but volumes were still slightly down in the face of higher prices driven by inflation this year.