Supermarket lamb sales have slumped 20% as shoppers turn their backs on the roasting staple amid soaring prices.

Volume sales have declined from 82,533t to 66,427t over the past year [Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 19 February 2012]. Despite the rise in prices, value sales have also fallen, by 6% on 2011 levels to £568.7m.

Lamb prices have risen because the UK and New Zealand flocks have been shrinking. In addition, New Zealand producers are increasingly exporting to emerging markets, reducing what is available for the UK.

As a result, New Zealand wholesale prices have soared 23% over the past 12 months to £3,474/t, with UK prices up nearly 10% to £4,432/t [Mintec February 2012]. Prices are tipped to stay high in 2012 even though the UK flock is expected to increase slightly.

High prices are also hitting other meats. Beef volume is down 3% year-on-year and the decline is accelerating, with volume down 7% in the past 12 weeks [Kantar]. Sales of cheaper proteins have increased, with chicken up 3% to 467,211t. Pork has held steady, with volume sales of 181,838t compared with 179,420t the year before.