Fresh chicken sales slip as consumers chase alternatives

Almost £12m was wiped from the value of sales of fresh chicken in the run up to Christmas, with consumers cutting back on purchases.

According to the latest set of Kantar Worldpanel statistics, which cover the 12 weeks to 8 December, the sale of chicken at retail lost 2.7% of its value when compared with the same period of 2013. Volume also fell back 2%.

The consumer insight outfit suggested shoppers were buying less food in general, and taking fewer trips to the supermarket.

Individual categories of chicken also indicated heavy promotion over the period. Breastmeat sales by value remained almost static, even though volume was some 10% higher than 2013.

2 Sisters Food Group said the slowing of growth was “not brilliant”. But there was no obvious single cause. The company suggested promotions in other areas may be dampening shoppers’ enthusiasm for poultrymeat, and careful category management would be key to reversing the trend.

In a difficult 12 months for chicken, the release of data on campylobacter contamination on supermarket chicken and bird flu were two particularly hard blows, both at the end of November.

Evaluating their overall impact before the festive period was over would be difficult, according to Cargill Europe’s John Reed, who pointed to retailers’ tendency to promote red meat and consumers’ preference for turkey in December. He added that the general decline was of concern.

Andy Dawkins, chief executive at Faccenda, said there had been a “blip” in the two days that campylobacter had hit, with a “double digit” drop in the number of whole birds sold. But when the week was shortlived.

One factor that has been cited is growth in spending power as the economy improves, and the decreasing ratio between income and the cost of food. Both could be driving people to buy more expensive meat.

Pork prices have also slipped back over the last year, offering an alternative protein to poultry.

Meanwhile, another dataset suggests the outlook for duckmeat is more rosy. Reporting firm IRI puts retail sales of ducks up 61% in the 13 weeks to 29 November, when compared with the previous period, with 225,820 ducks sold.

Over the latest quarter, volume sales were up almost a fifth against 2013, though revenues were static.