Marks & Spencer has turned around last year's poor performance on red meat through an aggressive price-cutting programme.

The retailer's volume sales of red meat plunged 30% year-on-year in late 2008 as the recession took its toll.

However, in the first quarter of 2009, kg sales rose 31.5% year-on-year [TNS 12w/e 22 March]. In this period, M&S was the only retailer to reduce fresh red meat prices - its average price fell 13.1%.

Initiatives such as its Dine In For £10 offer had driven footfall and helped reduce the retailer's dependence on seasonality, which had also helped boost fresh meat sales, said TNS Worldpanel communications director Ed Garner.

Speaking at last week's Bpex/Eblex Outlook conference, Garner said consumers were "managing their inflation" by trading down from premium own-label products to less expensive alternatives.

This was being encouraged by heavy promotional activity on cheaper meats, he added.

M&S's performance is further evidence of the importance of competitive pricing in the recession, he added.

Although overall food inflation was running at about 9.3%, shoppers were keeping their own inflation down to 3.5% through such switching, Garner claimed.

Sales of beef and roasting joints had suffered as consumers opted for mince instead, while consumers had switched from lamb roasting joints to fresh pork.

"There has been much more promotion on fresh turkey and pork, and much less on fresh lamb," Garner said. "Chicken sales have also been gaining from fresh lamb and beef."

Fresh lamb roasting joint volume sales fell 28% during the quarter compared with the same period last year. Fresh beef roasting joint sales fell 24%, lamb mince was down 10% and fresh beef for frying and grilling was down 9% [TNS].

However, volume sales of fresh pork mince, fresh pork for frying or grilling, and fresh stewing lamb had all risen.