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While turkey sales were up 29% compared to 2022, when avian flu resulted in the deaths of 600,000 festive birds, they were still down on 2019 by 16.7%

Consumers spent a record £13.7bn on meat, fish and poultry at Christmas 2023, up 11.6% compared with 2022, despite continued cost of living challenges.

Total volumes also rose, by 6.4%. And after a slump in sales in 2022 due to the impact of avian flu, turkey volumes bounced back, rising by 29% year on year for whole turkeys and by 0.8% for turkey crowns and joints, according to analysis of Kantar data by AHDB.

Whole turkey and crowns/joints accounted for 7.5% of total meat, fish and poultry volumes and 31.9% of Christmas centrepiece volumes in the two weeks to Christmas, showing it was still the UK’s favourite roasting joint, according to AHDB analyst Tom Price.

However, volumes for the two combined turkey categories were still down on pre-pandemic levels, by 16.7% compared to 2019 data. Total turkey was also the only protein in the MFP category to see such a fall on pre-Covid levels, AHDB said.

Meanwhile, whole chicken was the only protein type to see volumes decline compared to 2022, although they were still up on 2019 by 19.9%.

Increased shopping trips

All other meat centrepieces were in growth compared to both 2019 and 2022.

The total rise in MFP volumes had been largely been driven by an increased frequency of shopping trips, which may be attributed to customers visiting more stores to find the best value, AHDB said.

The levy board added much of the growth was in trimmings rather than whole roasting joints, demonstrating that consumers were more likely to trade up in less expensive items compared to a centrepiece.

AHDB Christmas protein sales

Pork roasting joints and gammon performed strongly. Pork saw volumes up 16.8% year on year and by 35.1% on 2019 levels, while gammon saw volumes climb by 4.9% year on year and by 14.2% on 2019 levels.

This growth was potentially explained by the fact the two categories were the next cheapest roasting cuts to poultry available, Price suggested.

Both beef (up 11.4% year on year and up 32.8% on 2019) and lamb roasting joints (up 32.8% year on year and 55.5% versus 2019) also saw strong performance, which drove most of the year-on-year growth across the categories.

Lamb’s growth was helped by the fact 69.6% of roasting joints were on promotion in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, which drove a 4% decline in average prices compared to last year.

AHDB said meat-free volumes declined by 12.6% in Christmas 2023 due to their high price point, with consumer-facing costs outpacing most other proteins.

The levy board added that value tier volumes remained relatively stable, however, there was a big increase in economy roasting sales, up 40.7%, although from a very small base. 

Standard tier continues to dominate the market with volume sales accounting for 85.5% of total sales in the run up to Christmas with notable increases in this tier in  whole turkey, lamb and gammon products with beef roasting joints also seeing large increases with some volumes switching from premium tier. 

Both beef and turkey roasting joints benefited from the large volumes on promotion, at 49.2% and 35.5% respecitvely which caused average prices to decline year on year for both cuts, said AHDB.