Food Chain: Mince sales feel the effect of recession

Mince represents just over half (by volume) of the beef retail market and, despite the product having a reputation as a cheaper option, sales have been hit by the recession.

Latest figures from market research company TNS suggest that the overall volume of mince sold has fallen by 1.3% in the past year as shoppers tightened their belts. But separate research by Kent Business School in collaboration with the Institute for Grocery Distribution and the NFU says that the decline in volume sales is more a reflection of shifts in shopper habits, rather than a move away from the product.

The total value of mince sales actually increased by 13% to £597m in the year to October, as higher cattle prices filtered through to the supermarket shelf, IGD’s Peter Whitehead says. Retailers are also continuing to promote mince as a versatile meat product, with many favouring temporary price reductions and “two for £4”-type promotions over multi-buys such as buy-one-get-one-free, he notes.

Changing spend

The rise in the value of fresh beef mince has been largely driven by increased spend on 501-800g pack sizes, while sales of smaller (less than 250g) packs and those over 801g showed significant declines, the TNS data reveals.

The KBS/ IGD research, which is based on 1.4m Tesco Clubcard holders, indicates that the strongest source of sales value and volume growth has been within the “value” beef mince tier, with sales up over 100%. “This reflects the economic recession,” says Mr Whitehead. “But shoppers have not abandoned their principles and the market is not all about low prices.”

Analysis of 500g-sized packs shows “healthy” and “premium” beef mince account for more than 15% of sales by value. The value of sales in these two groups has increased by 31% and 16% respectively year-on-year, while volumes sold have increased by 21% and 7% (see table). Meanwhile the category with the highest share of sales, “standard” mince, has seen volumes fall 35% over the year, or a 19% fall by value.

But within this overall trend, there are variations between the types of consumers buying different pack sizes and quality standards.

Smaller packs (<250g) appeal to older adults and pensioners, while larger packs (>501g) appeal to families, says Mr Whitehead.

All tiers of mince appeal strongly to young families, while value mince is more popular among older families. Healthy, premium and standard mince appeal to upmarket shoppers and healthy brands have particularly strong appeal to shoppers in the south and east. Value lines have more appeal in the north east.

IGD research suggests that 57% of shoppers put health at the top of their reasons for buying certain products, while a desire for locally-sourced food was the second most popular factor. Four in ten believe they can positively influence British farmers, the local economy and the way animals are treated through their shopping decisions.

“Mince, of course, is just one product from a beef carcase, but if the variation exists within mince, other variations will exist with each and every other cut purchased,” Mr Whitehead says. “Understanding shopper behaviour in conjunction with other data can help producers, whether selling directly or through a processor, satisfy consumer’s demand for British beef.”

beef mince chart

Find out more

The joint venture between KBS and IGD aims to provide farmers with insights into the shopping behaviour of consumers. This allows them to develop their businesses to ensure products are relevant.

The latest sector to be examined is beef mince. Farmers can access the full report at

Kent Business School can provide free tailor-made consumer research for individual farm businesses.

Go to to find out more.