The overall basket of meat and fish is now down month-on-month for the first time this year, in a sector that has seen the largest inflation of any food category. Sausages had a particularly notable monthly fall of 7.2%, with a 454g pack of thick pork bangers now down to £1.16. The fall reverses the trend for a product that has seen a 30.6% increase in average prices over the past year. This was directly linked to the soaring cost of pork production, where feed costs led to farmers having to pass on input rises to retailers.
Resolute consumers do not appear to have been put off by the rises, with value sales jumping 13% to £102m in the 12 weeks to 16 October [TNS]. Sales of all tiers of sausages have risen, with value sales up 30% for the period to £2m, standard up 18% to £35m, standard plus rising 8% to £20m and premium up 11% to £5.5m.
Shoppers were continuing to favour sausages as they were perceived as more affordable than other cuts of meat, said Bpex consumer marketing manager Chris Lamb. “People love sausages and they’re still a value-for-money item,” he explained. “You can get very good quality sausages without spending a fortune.”
However, Lamb also warned that the sausage price may not fall far, as the weakness of the pound meant processors could sell shoulder meat to the Continent where it was in high demand. Promotions were the main reason for the lower average meat prices over the past month, Lamb said, as supermarkets sought to discount more products. And shoppers could look forward to more discount activity on lines such as loin chops over the coming months, he added.
The price of beef was also dropping as a result of a seasonal oversupply of cattle, according to NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh. But a global shortage of beef would mean prices were unlikely to fall much further, provided supply was accurately matched with demand, he added.
“We, as producers, need to carefully consider how and when we market our stock, as continued short-term oversupply will place even more pressure on the existing price,” he said.
One sector not to have recorded price decreases was fish, where trout has remained level and salmon has risen 2.4% in the past month. But even this represents a significant slow-down on the double-digit price growth seen over the past month, and many analysts are predicting a levelling-off in fish prices in the coming months, particularly as a combination of falling oil prices and government initiatives relieve the pressure on beleaguered fishing fleets, which had been suffering from high fuel costs.