The Grocer’s 2017 Top Products Survey, THE definitive guide to the current state of the UK’s grocery industry

Fresh meat has suffered grocery’s biggest loss for the second consecutive year, haemorrhaging £71.4m (1.6%) on volumes down 1.5%. Poultry has lost a further £25.3m (1.2%) while fish has grown by £45.2m (2.6%).

Supply & demand, currency exchange rates, demographics, health concerns and food trends are all affecting Britain’s choice of meat. Indeed, growing numbers are opting out of meat altogether. The Vegetarian Society estimates there are now 1.2 million-plus veggies in Britain. More than half a million are vegan, quadruple the number a decade ago. Many more are cutting back for health and/or environmental reasons.

The challenge for pork, lamb and beef partly relates to occasion. The rise of smaller households and growing demand for quick meals mean the Sunday roast is in decline. “Roasting joints traditionally had one destination: Sunday meals,” says AHDB senior multiple retail trade manager Matt Southam.

It’s not all bad for beef, though. Southam says sales of mince and steak are holding up well thanks partly to format innovation. “A lot of retailers have made smaller pack sizes to get price points to around £3 and provide a product that is affordable for a midweek meal, and combining that with promotions,” he adds. “It’s been really successful.”

Clearly, convenience is crucial. Poultry, the only sector with volumes up, is beating red meat partly because chicken fillets are seen as easier to prepare. It’s also cheaper, leaner and more versatile, making it more suited to the kind of rice and noodle dishes that are replacing traditional meat & two veg meals.

Bangers are back, too (value rose 2.1%; volumes are flat), suggesting the effect of the 2016 WHO cancer link is waning. Premium lines are to thank, says Richmond brand manager Sarah Davies. “Deeper deals and the return of multibuys is driving growth. There’s also less of a negative health perception.”

The sector has mostly escaped the inflation many expected. But a 5.1% lamb price hike after retailers stocked up on British to offset New Zealand shortages and the pound’s fall from grace saw volumes fall 10.3%. Salmon volumes also fell 7.3% on a 12.5% price rise.

Premiumisation is pushing up fish prices, too. Best proof of the growing sophistication of Brits’ tastes is this: king prawns have outsold standard prawns for the first time.


mens health sausages

Men’s Health Kitchen by ABP UK

Meat gets a bad rap on health. But fitness fanatics know you can’t beat it when it comes to building muscle. So teaming up with Men’s Health on this new health-focused meat brand was a masterstroke by ABP. Lean pork sausages and chicken chipolatas with 60% meat and 29% haricot beans (rsp: £2/98) arrived in Asda in September. Full of protein and fibre, and appealing to flexitarians and carnivores alike, they could be an important step towards changing perceptions around meat and health.

The Grocer Top Products Survey 2017: Up!