Red meat sales took a hit over the festive period as shoppers switched to plant-based alternatives, according to AHDB and the market analyst Kantar Worldpanel.
Market data show that 15,000 fewer shoppers bought red meat in the 12 weeks to 29 December, compared with a year earlier.
AHDB analyst Bethan Wilkins said lamb had suffered most, with sales down 4% by volume year-on-year. This was slightly offset by a 2% uplift in prices during the quarter, meaning the fall in sales value was lessened somewhat, Ms Wilkins said.
Within the lamb category, primary fresh and frozen meat fell by more than the overall figure, dropping by 6%, she explained.
The biggest losses were in chops, steaks and leg roasting joints. Shoulder roasting volumes bucked the trend and grew 5%.
Pork sales also fared badly. Sales over the three months fell by 4.5% in volume, compared with the year before. However, prices were 4.5% up on the year, effectively cancelling out the decline in volume.
The poorest performing cuts were roasting joints, chops and steaks within the primary fresh and frozen pork category. These cuts recorded significant losses in both volume , down 8%, and value, down 7%, Ms Wilkins said.
Bacon volumes also continued to slide with a fall of 6%. But prices more than offset the decline with an 8% hike. One trend identified in the bacon category is a switch from standard tier products to premium and healthy ranges.
Unlike the other red meat categories, total beef sales remained relatively stable in volume terms, recording a decline of less than 1% year-on-year.
Unfortunately, average prices in the category were lower than in the same period of 2018, and so spend declined by 2%, Ms Wilkins said.
Within primary fresh and frozen beef, sales volumes declined by 2%, driven by poor sales of roasting joints and mince. A 3.5% increase in volumes of steak sold was wiped out by a 4% drop in the average price.
Delving deeper into the statistics, Kantar Worldpanel’s business unit director Nathan Ward said the stable volume of beef sold was due to increased promotional support.
However, the downward trend in roasting cuts was a result of 113,000 fewer shoppers picking up roasting joints year-on-year, and they were selected on 471,000 fewer shopping trips.
Beef mince saw a steep drop off, losing 306,000 shoppers and 526,000 fewer trips, Mr Ward said.
He added that steep losses in lamb steaks (-14%) and stewing cuts (-20%) were concerning for the red meat sector and he blamed a fall in the level of promotional support.
Steaks continue to lose shoppers – 515,000 fewer year on year – as in-store promotions were down by two thirds this year, Mr Ward said.
Declines in pork sales were also attributed to reduced promotional activity in stores.
“Overall, pork is seeing much less promotional support than other meats, with 32% less volume sold on promotion this year, making this a key factor in the decline of the key cuts,” Mr Ward suggested.
He identified so-called empty nesters – parents whose offspring have grown up and moved out – and retired shoppers as the main groups propelling the decline but noted that consumers at all life stages were buying less red meat.