Meat, fish and poultry purchasing slows
Our latest grocery market share figures show year-on-year supermarket sales grew by the fastest rate since November last year, at 0.7%, over the 12 weeks to 23 February. But the picture for the meat, fish and poultry (MFP) categories is more nuanced and continues to show that the rise of alternative diets isn’t completely reflected in sales. Additionally, with the bulk of Coronavirus-induced panic shopping not represented in this data period, the situation is likely to very different in our next update.
Nathan Ward, Business Unit Director, MFP, explains: “Across January we heard a lot about the impact of meat free and the move towards less meat in our diets. Using our Worldpanel Plus service, we spoke to 5,000 people who went plant based for Veganuary and 90% said they wouldn’t return to their normal diet afterwards. What we did learn was that only 18% managed to stay vegan for the whole month. This tallies with what we are already seeing; diets are changing, but it isn’t as black and white as consumers making wholesale lifestyle changes. Volume sales in MFP are down in across all categories except primary meat and poultry, which is fairly static. While there’s slightly more shoppers buying primary meat and poultry, we see each shopper is making fewer trips on average.”
While processed meat and poultry has seen sales in volume terms fall by 1.8% year on year, value sales have grown as shoppers are paying 5% more (an additional 29p per kilo). This hasn’t dampened demand overall with spend up 3% and 1.3m more trips being made compared to last year. Volume decline has been driven by smaller baskets with all categories seeing smaller trips compared to last year. Bacon continues to see the steepest decline, as a result of fewer shoppers and smaller baskets - with Y for £X deals down 47% compared to last year. Rising prices have kept value sales of bacon buoyant, with price hikes driven by promotional changes and inflation in farm prices.
Ward continues: “Within fresh primary meat and poultry, pork is seeing the strongest decline as prices rise. We’ve seen 764,000 fewer shoppers and 3.8m fewer trips as shoppers continue to move away from pork roasts, steaks and chops. Leg and shoulder roasts are both down, with chops and steaks also seeing a marked decline. Overall, pork has had much less promotional support than other meats and the rate of promoted sales is down. Some 32% fewer volume sales were on promotion this year, making this a key factor. Chicken remains the positive story in the category, with value and volume growth as we see 315,000 more shoppers putting it in their baskets and 2.9m more trips. Whole birds are still in decline, with this offset by growth in breasts, legs and wings. Promotions are again playing a key role here in holding back value growth, with 30% of volume sales on promotion, up 23% on last year as we see price cuts rise by a third.”
Over the 12 weeks to 23 February, sales of fish struggled in both value and volume terms, with 184,000 fewer trips and static shopper numbers. Ward continues: “At the same time, we are seeing smaller trips, despite promotions increasing 2% in the last year. Cod and mackerel are the key species driving volume decline, but salmon is also in negative growth, massively affecting the overall performance.” Natural fish fillets are the key driver of volume decline, with 712,000 fewer trips and 199,000 fewer shoppers. Cod (down 20%) and plaice (down 31%) are the key drivers of volume decline in natural fish, with salmon in volume growth (up 0.4%), but value decline (down 3%), as prices drop due to greater use of promotions.
It’s clear that that shoppers’ behaviour has been hugely volatile over recent weeks, with unprecedented scenes of shoppers stocking up in anticipation of long stretches at home. Our next update will give us an informed view of the impact of this impulsive buying on the meat, fish and poultry categories.