The red meat aisle needs to “work harder” and think of new ways to “reinvigorate” the category to catch the eyes of shoppers, who are always on the lookout for something new.
After what was a “bumper year” in 2020 for at-home beef consumption, 2021 saw a pull-back, with consumption figures more in line with 2019.
According to Bord Bia’s latest Meat Shopper Insight, the overall consideration given by grocery shoppers to buying beef is trending down in a number of key markets.
73% of Irish shoppers surveyed said they would consider buying beef, compared to 85% the year before.
In the UK, the figure has decreased by 6% to 72%.
Danny Bowles, insight and planning specialist with Bord Bia, told a recent meat market webinar that this downward trend is “something to absolutely keep an eye out for”.
He said it is possible that the decline in Ireland and UK may be linked to COP26 being held on our doorstep, leading to that climate discussion “being a bit louder”, along with finances.
“Certainly, the rising cost of living and rising costs around the meat category is evident, especially in the beef category,” he said.
“There is also evidence that the category is in need of reinvigoration, and shoppers are looking for something new. We asked shoppers if they engage with the beef category, and that’s simply actively reviewing what is on offer, and it’s trending down in all markets compared to 2020 and compared to 2019.”
He said this suggests that shoppers are “less excited by what’s on offer” in the meat aisle.
A lot of this “could be driven by price,” he said.
Bord Bia’s data shows that 10% of grocery shoppers in Ireland feel that the cost of beef in-store is “too expensive”, and that they are opting for other proteins where there are more promotions.
“We know special offers are a key way to get beef in the meal plans and to catch the eye of shoppers but it does seem that the red meat aisle in general needs to work harder if it’s not going to rely on special offers to catch shoppers’ eyes and get them trading up.
“We do believe that engagement is necessary to get shoppers to trade up, otherwise they’re going to go for the most affordable options that they can find and do that habitual purchase rather than seeing what other options are available to trade up to.
“And in terms of barriers to purchase of beef, we are seeing that the cost in-store is increasing. This is pretty marginal increases across the year, but we do fully expect those to continue increasing in 2022, but it’s also an impact of seeing less special offers and, so, we are seeing shoppers are instead looking to alternatives.”
However, this increasing disinterest isn’t just affecting beef — chicken and pork are also down in consideration amongst grocery shoppers in many markets in 2021 compared to 2020, but level with 2019. Consideration given to chicken by grocery shoppers in Ireland is down by 6% to 69%, and pork is down by 3% to 28%.
There has been an increase across markets in the consideration of lamb where the other categories of meat have been declining.
Mr Bowles said there is an opportunity for lamb to be that “something new” that shoppers are seeking, and that its popularity may be boosted with it being “considered that bit healthier as well”.
“During Covid over the two years, perhaps we’ve returned to beef and bought more meat and beef in particular than we expected to. Beef represented something comforting, something traditional, and now it’s a sense that shoppers want something new from the range.
“You just spent two years scratch-cooking and relying on the supermarkets to offer something new and offer some meal inspiration, perhaps there’s a bit of fatigue there, especially with foodservice options coming into play.
“There’s a sense that shoppers want something new and a bit more exciting from the beef category, whether that’s new flavours, new tastes, new formats, or simply new packaging in terms of more sustainable packaging, and new ways of presenting the aisle.”
There is “growing expectation that beef consumption” will be reduced in the future — with Ireland and Germany increasing in this regard.
However, in most markets, Bord Bia expects that beef consumption will not be completely stopped — so there is an opportunity to keep consumers in the category.
Shoppers may be choosing less, but it indicates they may be buying “better quality”, Mr Bowles noted, as consumers become increasingly concerned about sustainability and animal welfare.
However, Mr Bowles assured that while negative associations with meat are increasing, at the same time “we’re not seeing a big wholesale move towards meat alternatives”.
“There continues to be a lot of love and a lot of preference for beef, and meat in general.”