UK – A speaker at the British Pig & Poultry Fair on Tuesday emphasised that poultry meat can help meet consumers’ desires for a healthy, convenient diet, offering optimistic long-term prospects for an industry seeing retail price deflation.
Speaking at the first forum of the event, which was standing room only, Chris Hall from Cargill discussed the outlook for poultry meat.
Poultry meat showing significant growth in volume sold
Mr Hall said it had been a positive year for poultry meat overall, but he added that there has been significant deflation on a price per kilo level, largely because of raw material prices. He showed data indicating a 5.2 per cent growth in poultry meat volume sales since last year, but only a 1.5 per cent increase in consumer spend.
Mr Hall explained that higher prices and the horsemeat scandal reduced chicken consumption growth around 2013, but improved consumer trust is now benefiting the industry.
The popularity of chicken meat in particular is clear to see, with Mr Hall’s data showing 86 per cent of households bought chicken in the past year. “If you included cooked and added value chicken you would get up to over 95 per cent,” he said.
Meanwhile, duck sales value went up 37 per cent in just one year – a leap that Mr Hall said the chicken and turkey industry could learn from.
Mr Hall attributed the success of duck to reacting to market trends, and investing in innovation to make products that consumers want to buy.
Disease and food safety are top of the list of industry challenges
Mr Hall identified a number of different challenges facing the industry in the next few years.
Campylobacter is still a key issue, despite the significant progress made over the last few years. “The industry has worked closely together to find solutions, but it’s an extremely difficult bug to contain and to manage… We are starting to win the fight, but we also should not be complacent.”
He called for all parts of the poultry industry to share information on Campylobacter, saying that this is not an area where some companies should have a competitive advantage.
Avian influenza is another concern, although outbreaks have so far been well contained, Mr Hall said. “The costs, not only of cleaning and disinfection, but also in terms of export markets being closed, are significant for the industry.”
Another big issue is antibiotic use, with consumers all over the world calling for a reduction in antibiotic use to help fight resistance in bugs.
Mr Hall stressed the considerable progress made by the British Poultry Council, with recent data showing a 44 per cent reduction in antibiotic use since 2012 under the Council’s scheme, but he added that the most important aspect was the clear strategy for protecting the most important antibiotics.
Mr Hall also said carcass balance is becoming more and more of a challenge.
He highlighted the significant reduction in the time consumers spend cooking meals, which came down to 32 minutes in 2013 from 45 minutes in 1990. Consumers are also demanding different products, with fewer meals cooked from scratch and more meals ready-made than in previous decades.
“As consumer trends demand more convenient, more easy, more adaptable, all of that plays to more and more breast meat… How do we build innovation to encourage consumers to buy across the whole carcass?” he said, referring once again to the success of the duck sector.
Changing consumer health trends provide opportunities for poultry meat
“The red meat industry has had a really tough time,” Mr Hall said, citing the World Health Organisation conclusion about the link between red meat and cancer. “It’s unnerved consumers,” he added.
Another health trend is that higher protein, higher fat diets are starting to take off, Mr Hall said. Chicken, as an affordable, high quality, versatile protein, is well placed to capitalise on these opportunities.
Whilst doing so, Mr Hall said the supply chain should continue to be open and transparent to maintain consumer trust. Focusing on British and sustainable products will help continued improvements in consumer confidence.
“Poultry is really ideally placed to meet consumers’ needs today, so I’m pretty optimistic,” he concluded.