Back with a bang: sausage sales are starting to rise again

Hoorah. British bangers have been given a reprieve after a new study out this week gave them the all-clear from cancer fears.

According to media reports, experts studied 117 packs of sausages from 11 major supermarkets and found that 97% didn’t contain nitrates or nitrites - the preservatives thought to be behind the increased cancer risk posed by processed meat.

Manufacturers have been protesting British bangers’ innocence since the WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer first published its October 2015 report, which classified processed meat as ‘carcinogenic to humans’, the highest of five possible rankings, shared with alcohol, asbestos, arsenic and cigarettes.

Hitting back against media reports claiming sausages were ‘as big a cancer risk as cigarettes”, suppliers pointed out most UK-produced sausages would not be considered “processed meat” because they do not use any of the processes or chemicals referred to in the report. But their protestations went largely unheard.

In the year after the report, sausage sales plummeted by £51.1m [Nielsen 52 w/e 15 October 2016], and by March 2017 burgers had overtaken bangers as Britain’s favourite barbecue meat, with sausages left out of 2.5 million occasions [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 4 December 2016].

Although some of these losses could be explained by discounting and a drop in x-for-y deals, analysts agreed the WTO report was a big factor behind the sudden drop.

More recently, however, sausages have started to make a comeback – driven by a strong performance from premium lines. Not only do shoppers view posh sausages as a healthier choice than bargain bangers, but there has been a flurry of NPD that has changed perceptions around health. Take Heck’s Super Slim sausage – which contain just 2.7g of fat and 157 calories per 100g – or Debbie & Andrew’s Flexilicious range, which combine 40% pork with 30% veg, pulses and legumes.

So while this latest research will no doubt be welcomed by British brands, it shouldn’t be given any credit for a future uplift in sausage sales. Because sausage suppliers and retailers deserve all the credit for turning things around themselves in the face of unfair – and untrue – accusations.