Cost of living increases drive meat reduction in UK - AHDB

Cost now on par with health as reason for cutting backd
calendar icon 11 July 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

In recent years the UK has seen the growth of “flexitarians", or people trying to reduce their meat consumption and eat a more plant rich diet, accounting for around 1 in 5 consumers, according to Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board consumer insight manager Susie Stannard. Typically, people reduced their consumption of meat due to beliefs around meat and its impact on health, the environment and animal welfare. Now consumers have a new reason to cut back on meat: inflation. According to Stannard, increased cost has surfaced as a strong reason for cutting back on meat. In fact, it is now neck and neck with health as the top driver of meat reduction.

Those thinking that beef and red meat currently have good prices and offers has now reduced to only 10% and 6% respectively. High prices are particularly damaging for cuts such as roasting joints and steaks where higher prices are a barrier for many consumers. Consumers may choose to opt for cheaper cuts such as mince that are easy to bulk out with cheaper vegetables or carbs, but AHDB’s consumer tracker is showing larger proportions of consumers now perceiving mince as expensive (rising from 11% to 19% over the last 12 months).

Demand for hind quarter cuts is likely to drop further as inflationary pressures are also likely to put a brake on food service recovery. According to an AHDB/You Gov consumer tracker, 36% are planning to eat out less than pre-pandemic; 77% of those say it is to save money.

Year on year retail sales are now being compared to 2021 which saw a period of pandemic restrictions where in-home eating was above the average. Stannard said AHDB expects to see a downturn in retail sales of meat and other products since last year. However, there are signs that high prices are also taking their toll, particularly on more premium proteins such as lamb which is down by 12% compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to statistics from Kantar.

Retailers will need to look for ways to support consumers through this crisis, Stannard suggested. Meat is widely regarded by consumers as an important part of the weekly shop and provides essential nutrients such as B12 that plant-based foods alone cannot. Consumers may need to revisit some of the more old-fashioned ways of making meat stretch further via creative use of leftovers and ensure they minimise food waste. Promotional strategies will need to be carefully thought out as well to manage volumes passing through the supply chain at key periods such as Christmas and other key events and to maintain carcase balance, she concluded.

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