Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Food Shopping 2012 - Not So Different From Granny's Day

So many things about the way we shop today would strike a chord with consumers in the 50’s and even 60’s. Then, there was little choice but to buy locally.  Home delivery was the norm with the customer making a list, and handing it over to the shopkeeper who would then drop the order off at a prearranged time. List making was critical as post war housewives abhorred waste, instead carefully planning meals, and eking out the Sunday roast for days – cold on Monday, in a pie Tuesday, and soup on Wednesday. Some of the more controversial farming methods like broiler chickens, or eggs from caged hens, or intensively reared pigs or fish farms were still to come, and anyway, shoppers often knew their local producer and found this reassuring.
A return to buying locally, home delivery, and list making are all major trends today, and concern about animal welfare is growing.  
The hard numbers confirm the trends.

Sales through local convenience stores have mushroomed, and they now account for over one fifth of all grocery sales, up 5% to £33.6bn in 2011. Local stores are indeed convenient. They cater for the weary commuter who does not want to detour via a superstore on the way home, preferring instead to buy what is needed for supper that evening and go straight home. They are a boon for the older, and walking to a local store helps save on petrol costs.

Localism is not confined to a local shop. Supermarkets are getting in on the act, mindful that nearly half of consumers say that supporting local/ British producers is their number one shopping concern.
On line shopping and delivery to home has exploded. This market is now worth £4.8bn, up 21%, and sales are expected to double by 2015.

And the rise in sales of welfare friendly chicken, the use only of free range eggs by all the major supermarkets, and the interest in better welfare pork all attest to increasing numbers of consumers putting their money where their animal welfare mouth is. 31% of shoppers cite animal welfare concerns as a driver for what they buy.
Much has been written about the careful consumer, adapting to difficult economic times by sticking to a budget, using lists rather than buy whatever takes their fancy, and going back to cooking.

Whilst the way we shop may be a return to previous decades, the technological tools we have to help us would leave the 1950’s shopper wide eyed. The internet allows grocery lists to be sent to the store without having to leave the armchair, smart phone apps can be used to create a shopping list anywhere, and thousands of recipes are available at the touch of a button rather than having to wade through cookbooks.
A return to old fashioned methods and values helped by the latest technology will be welcomed by most.

It must be remembered though that within this warmth and nostalgia lies a fundamental truth – and that is the need for an acceptable price/value relationship. There is a hard edge to shopping today, and it is about seeking the best bargains, finding the lowest price, buying 40% of goods on promotion, and making sure that the item in question, whether a premium or low ticket item, really is worth the price. This was probably true for the 1950’s as well as in 2012. 

Friday, 3 February 2012

Cattle Farm Gate Prices Up But Beef Consumption Down

Whilst beef farmers breathe a sigh of relief that farmgate prices for cattle have improved, there is a cloud on the horizon in the shape of falling beef eating.
In the 12 weeks prior to Christmas the amount of beef bought from shops plunged by 9 %. And it is not really surprising. Over the same period the average price of a kilo of beef went up from £5.99p a kilo to £6.58p, reflecting the increased prices that retailers and processors have been paying producers. (Source Kantar Worldpanel)

The drop was even more dramatic in the 4 weeks immediately before Xmas when sales were down 13%.
We have seen this picture already on lamb which saw even steeper farm gate and consequent retail price increases. Last year lamb consumption plummeted by 20%, and this was on top of a decrease in the previous year.

It is, though, a rare cloud that does not have a silver lining and the beneficiaries have been fresh pork (up 2% last year),bacon (up 4%), and sausages (up2%).

Consumers seem to have replaced much of their red meat eating with alternative protein sources. Chicken sales continue to grow and there was much anecdotal evidence of a major switch to turkey pre Xmas.
Of course domestic consumption is by no means the only contributor to farmgate prices. The size of the UK breeding flock has an impact as do the euro and imports.

These factors can change, as the euro performance just now shows, so, regardless of external factors, British farming needs a healthy domestic market.  The drop in beef and lamb eating reminds us that meat is price sensitive.To this end we should perhaps not chastise retailers for encouraging consumers to keep buying lamb, beef and pork, even if this does mean some price promotion.