The meat sector continues to produce a strong performance during the barbecue season, with red meat the nation's favourite

Chops, steaks, pork sausages and burgers are the staple foods of most UK barbecues. Figures from TNS on the UK take-home barbecue market in 2005 show red meat chops and steaks are the nation's favourite with a 9.1% share of the market, followed by white meat with an 8.5% share and fresh sausages at 4.1%. Fresh burgers and grills lag behind with a mere 1% share, although frozen equivalents remain the barbecue mainstays. Fresh flavoured meats is the fastest-growing market with year-on-year sales growth of 16.5%.
The meat sector has a pretty strong legacy around the barbecue season and there are no signs that this is going to change in the near future, says Chris Leeman, retail sector manager at the English Beef and Lamb Executive. "Burgers and sausages are a favourite because they are easy to cook, inexpensive and family-friendly."
According to research by EBLEX, sausages were cooked at 54% of barbecues last year and burgers at 42% - both increases on the previous year. Poultry is in third place at 38.7%.
With this in mind, Birds Eye is strengthening its position as the number one burger by launching a hot & spicy burger and barbecue quarter pounder ahead of the season. It is also relaunching its Family Range including its burger with onions in new packaging.
Matthew Blackmore, Birds Eye brand activations manager for red meat, says: "The barbecue category is being expanded but burgers remain consumers' first choice. Our premium range will ensure consumer reappraisal and boost sales during this key period and beyond."
Leeman attributes the growth of sausages and burgers to the increasing emphasis on family barbecues, although steaks and lamb chops are growing in popularity as well. EBLEX says red meat featured at 73% of all UK barbecues last year, 10% of which was steak and 6.9% lamb chops. Glazed steaks also do well, such as minted lamb steaks and Chinese pork.
Richard Lowe, British Pig Executive marketing director, adds that, to grow the market for different meats, other than sausages and burgers, retailers need to better communicate with consumers: "It is important that retailers seize the opportunity to increase sales by making clear to consumers that these products are ideal for the barbecue through effective merchandising and labelling."
The use of chicken is also rising, although the choice of cuts is changing. According to Mintel, chicken legs are the most popular, but breast portions are on the increase. Whole birds, such as spatchcock and poussin, are also increasing their penetration of the barbecue market.
A less obvious choice, but one growing in popularity, is turkey. "Turkey sales are increasing by 6% year-on-year," says Kim Burgess, chairman of the publicity and marketing committee at the British Turkey Sector Group. "Turkey steaks are the most popular cut of meat followed by kebabs - sales of both are steady throughout the year."
Sampling activity in the major multiples has been organised over the summer and the group is linking up with celebrity chef Phil Vickery to produce recipe cards. Burgess adds: "The barbecue season is important to sales. It's a big area and we need to get turkey into people's minds as an option. We do, however, have to work towards getting turkey steaks and kebabs on the fixture in stores - but we are making progress."