produced for the Meat and Livestock Commission by The Grocer MLC keeps a shrewd eye on consumer buying patterns What is the ultimate product mix? This is a category management dilemma that all retailers face. To help the decision making process the MLC carries out ongoing research into purchasing habits and how they can best relate to individual retailers. It is essential that we know who is buying what from the product range. Three areas that the MLC regularly looks at are the purchasing habits of consumers according to the number of members in a household, the age range of the housewife purchaser, and their socio-economic groupings. Household members Taylor Nelson Sofres data for the 12 weeks to December 10, 2000, which looked at the purchasing of fresh beef and lamb cuts, revealed that households with just one member purchased far greater levels of fresh frying/grilling chops and stewing lamb than the national average. This has a significance for outlets which have a high proportion of one person households. Not only is it important to stock such cuts, but they should also be in small pack sizes which are suitable for single person consumption. In two person households, all cuts of fresh beef and lamb tended to be popular, with only lamb mince under-performing. Price tended to be the predominant factor in households where three or more members were present, with beef and lamb mince out-performing the national average. Lower value roasting joints and stewing beef were also high on the shopping agenda. The buying trends of larger households are particularly important within the multiple retail sector of such companies as Morrisons, Asda and Safeway which, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres data, have a higher than average level of larger household purchasers. Age groups Turning to age groups, housewives under the age of 34 years have a tendency to utilise more fresh beef and lamb mince. But as the age increases, so does the purchasing repertoire. Housewives aged between 35 and 44 years start venturing towards higher value roasting beef. In the Taylor Nelson Sofres study of the major multiples, consumer purchasing habits, the shopping styles of the 65-years-plus age group will be of particular significance to stores such as Sainsbury, Somerfield, Waitrose, the Co-op which, along with independent butchers, have a higher than average number of these purchasers. The habits of purchasing housewives under the age of 34, however, are of greater significance to outlets such as Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Safeway and Iceland, with their above average number of shoppers up to this age. Socio-economic factors Purchasing habits by social class are also of great interest. ABs have a higher than average tendency towards higher value roasting beef, and lamb frying/grilling steaks and joints. The D grouping tends to favour the cheaper beef roasting and stewing cuts, while the Es tend to focus on beef stewing products, lamb chops and shoulder roasts. This information, again, will have an effect on the product selection of the various multiples researched. Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose have a higher than average level of ABC1 consumers, whereas Asda, Somerfield and Morrisons have a larger proportion of C2D and Es. The MLC's category development manager Richard Cullen said: "This data indicates certain trends and movements within the fresh meat market. "We work closely with the multiples and independents to ensure that full advantage is taken of changing consumer purchasing patterns." {{MLC }}