Beefburgers have overtaken sausages as Britain’s favourite barbecue meat, The Grocer can reveal.

They featured in a third more barbecues last year, an increase of 7.8 million occasions, while sausages were left out of 2.5 million occasions [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 4 December 2016].

AHDB’s senior multiple retail trade manager, Matt Southam, attributes sausages’ loss to health concerns following the publication of a WHO report linking processed meat to cancer.

Burgers have overcome this through premiumisation. “Burgers have been steadily rising for the past four or five years but recently most retailers have heavily premiumised and expanded their ranges and put decent x-for-y deals on them as well,” he said. “They now have a much better reputation in terms of health and quality.”

Chicken suffered the biggest drop, with a loss of 6.3 million occasions. Retailers were addressing this, Southam said, by “weather proofing” cooking instructions in response to consumer habits. “Our research shows that chicken remains the third most popular constituent of barbecue occasions, behind burgers and sausages but, in fact, 68% of all BBQ chicken products are oven cooked with only 14% prepared on the barbecue,” said Darrell May, director of sales GB, Moy Park.

In total, Brits fired up the barbie on 115.3 million occasions in 2016, an 8.4% increase on the year before, helped in part by the weather, with the Met Office hailing it as an Indian summer.

“This growth can be attributed to weekday occasions as those on a weekend declined,” said Sam Sear, Kantar analyst. “This year barbecue occasions also peaked later, coming in August in contrast to the earlier peaks of the two years previous.”