Turkey producers are claiming a breakthrough in their quest to convince Brits that turkey is not just for Christmas, after UK per capita consumption of the meat soared by 20% in the first quarter of the year.

Brits consumed 0.74 kg per head between January and March - up from 0.62 kg during the first three months of 2011 - based on Defra production figures, import and export data from HMRC as well as population data from the ONS.

Turkey breast steaks and mince did especially well, with steak volumes rising 24.7% year-on-year to 295 tonnes and mince up 22.4%, to 265 tonnes [Kantar Worldpanel 12 wks/e 31 March 2012]. The cuts together account for nearly 50% of the turkey market.

Consumption had been boosted partly because retailers were giving turkey products more shelf space and had started to include them in their three for £10 meat promotions more frequently, said Bernard Matthews MD Rob Mears. “Turkey has been becoming more visible at point of purchase,” he added.

Marketing pushes such as Bernard Matthews’ tie-up with Marco Pierre White for the Lean On Turkey campaign had also played an important part, as they had encouraged shoppers to “reappraise” turkey, Mears claimed. “A 20% increase is very substantial, especially during the first quarter of the year, when British consumers have often turned away from turkey,” he said. “It’s a sign consumers are looking at turkey differently.”

Turkey was now getting greater exposure in the consumer press, in retailer recipes and through chefs, added Richard Griffiths at the British poultry Council. “This is one of those occasions where the industry promotional campaign has struck a chord with consumers, and producers have grown more birds to meet that demand,” he said.