Meat & Livestock News

Consumer Preferences Shift in Red Meat and Dairy Purchases 

During the Covid lockdowns, factors such as enjoyment, variety, and the desire for change played a significant role in food purchasing decisions. However, with the easing of restrictions and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, there’s been a noticeable shift in consumer behaviour.

The emphasis on variety during mealtimes has lessened, with many households now favouring simpler meals that are quicker to prepare and use fewer ingredients.

Price has become a paramount consideration for consumers, especially when selecting meat, fish, and poultry (MFP). Though to a lesser degree, dairy products are also influenced by price. A recent study by AHDB/YouGov highlighted that 76% of consumers feel that price is increasingly crucial when buying meat.

Notably, half of those consuming less meat attribute their reduced intake to the rising costs of red meat.

The reasons behind consumers’ purchasing decisions are evolving. The trend of selecting food items because they “fancied a change” has seen a decline of 1.4 percentage points, equivalent to a reduction of 965 million servings in 15 months.

This decline is particularly evident in the MFP and dairy sectors, which experienced a drop of 550 million servings during 12 weeks.

Interestingly, while premium foods often fall under the “fancied a change” category, they aren’t the only ones affected by this shift in consumer sentiment. Some premium products have seen a sales boost due to the “lipstick effect”, where consumers opt for affordable luxuries.

On the other hand, staple foods like sausages, bacon, burgers, and mince are declining in choice for their variety. Instead, price, ease of preparation, and familiarity with cooking are becoming more influential.

Taste remains a significant factor, especially for staple products like mince, sausages, and gammon. These items have seen an uptick in purchases driven by their flavour profile.

This trend, moving away from the desire for variety, is consistent across all consumer demographics and is evident in both MFP and dairy data. Evening meals, in particular, are most impacted by this shift. Interestingly, meals associated with variety tend to be 9p more expensive, suggesting cost savings might influence the move away from variety.

The purchasing channel also plays a role. Online purchases are more likely to be driven by variety than in-store shopping. This could be attributed to the enhanced product presentation and inspiration available online.

To boost sales, retailers and suppliers should inspire consumers before they shop. Emphasising taste and offering various products at different price points can help attract a broader consumer base. While it’s early to determine if this is a long-term trend, effective communication about how products meet consumers’ needs can ensure that MFP and dairy remain staples in shopping baskets.