Meat is a key component of the UK diet. According to National Statistics, households spent more on meat than on any other category of food except fruit and vegetables in 2009: 16.22bn, or 22.7% of total consumer expenditure on food in the retail market. This represents a 1.4% increase on the sum spent on meat by UK households in 2008.
Over the past few years, prices for meat have risen dramatically not just in the UK but around the world. Many factors have influenced these prices, including high animal-feed costs and rising fuel costs. Global demand for meat has also risen as developing countries become more wealthy. A report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) forecasts that food prices will rise by up to 40% over the coming decade.
In the UK, many factors have influenced people’s shopping habits. The credit crunch and subsequent recession have persuaded many consumers to opt for cheaper types of meat. Value items such as bacon and sausages, for example, have become increasingly popular. Despite this trend, both Tesco and Waitrose have launched new premium ranges, and Waitrose has agreed a multimillion-pound licensing deal with Prince Charles’s Duchy Originals.
An original survey in February 2010 found that women were more likely than men to say that their household had reduced its meat consumption over the previous 5 years. Those at either end of the age range were more likely to agree with the statement than those in the middle.
The major supermarkets now dominate the sale of meat in the UK, accounting for an estimated 85% of the market. Butchers account for just 10%, with freezer centres, independent grocers and other outlets (including farmers’ shops and markets) sharing the remaining 5%. The catering industry has also become a major seller of meat, now accounting for around 30% of total UK consumption of meat and meat products.
Economic forecasts indicate that unemployment in the UK will not begin to decline until 2012, and that inflation will rise as the Government increases taxes to address the large deficit built up during the recession. These factors will have some impact on the meat market, although the products will remain key purchases for most households. As the global market recovers, overseas trade may contribute further to growth in the coming years.