There is much opportunity for growth and innovation in the duck sector, which has seen the value of sales grow £15m to £36m over the last 10 years.

Speaking to delegates at the Egg and Poultry Industry Conference, William Buchanan, commercial director of Gressingham Foods, explained that while retail sales have grown, foodservice remains the key market accounting for 60% of UK produced ducks. This eating out market has also grown – by 21% in the last four years.

However, Mr Buchanan warned that customer priorities are changing and price is becoming more important as the credit crunch bites with welfare less so. “Duck is seen as a weekend purchase, being more an indulgence dish than chicken.

“With these changes in priorities, we need to change our innovations quickly to meet their needs.”

A key example of innovation in duck at Gressingham Foods is the continuing development of its own unique breed, the Gressingham Duck. “We have been developing the genetics to produce a bird with less fat and a higher meat yield.

“Product innovation has seen the launch of new products, including fillets in a zesty orange sauce and duck kebabs. Kebabs will help us to expand duck into the summer barbecue market.

However, one barrier to success is duck becoming too much of a premium product and there is the fear factor of consumers on how to cook it. To help overcome this fear, Gressingham Foods recently launched a new website featuring recipes and including an “Ask the chef” service for consumers.