It is the differences in species consumption which are most fascinating, and they show that consumers are quick to change their buying patterns according to price.
For the first time for years the amount of fresh chicken eaten has gone down. The 3.5% drop is significant when considering that in the previous year consumption grew by 7%. The change is driven by prices which on average went up by almost 10%.
On the other side of the coin an average reduction in prices of 4% has seen lamb consumption grow by a whopping 12.5%. Again, this is a huge change in buying habits for the lamb market had been dropping year on year since 2008. BPEX tells us that pork, where volume sales have dropped by 4%, has been the biggest loser with leg and shoulder joint sales falling as consumers switch to lamb for their Sunday roast.
Over the same period beef consumption dropped by 1% as prices rose by an average of 6%.
Horsegate fits into the picture because, EBLEX tells us, consumer concerns about exactly what it was they were eating drove retailers to buy more British produced meat. As a result supplies of beef, chicken and pork were tight and prices rose.
There are signs though that the pendulum may be swinging again. Stories are appearing about sizeable increases in imports of Polish and Irish beef, which if sold at a low enough price may trump shopper worries about how the meat was produced.
BPEX also publishes details of which supermarkets over or under trade in fresh meat relative to their market share for all groceries.
Tesco, ASDA, and the Coop under trade. Sainsbury, Waitrose, discounters ALDI and LIDL and beleaguered Morrison’s overtrade. Price alone is therefore not a guide to how well a supermarket might do on fresh meat sales. The overtraders are a mixture of the upmarket and pricey (Waitrose and Sainsbury) and the “noted for low prices” discounters and Morrisons. Conversely Asda and Tesco might be said to be operating at the lower end of the price spectrum yet under trade.
Doing well in meat demands a tricky balance of good value, good quality, provenance and trust. Get it wrong and shoppers will vote with their feet and take their meat buying elsewhere. The challenge is made more difficult by shoppers' increasing tendency to change their buying behaviour with lightning speed.