Eblex encourages revival of casseroles

English beef and sheep industry levy body Eblex is undertaking a ‘Casserole Revival’ project to improve the popularity of the casserole and braising sector, and halt its “long-term decline”.

The organisation has conducted in-depth research into the barriers to the casserole category and has now made its recommendations.

Matthew Southam, Eblex multiple retailer account manager, explained: “It has been in long-term decline for over 10 years now and we’re seeing that decline accelerate over the last few years; the latest year it’s 15% down, with younger generations’ consumers moving away from it.”

Eblex believes that inconsistent eating quality is one of the main issues, due to mixed primals with different cooking times going into packets together. Southam explained: “One week you could get something that’s really nice, the next week it could be tough or dissolved into gravy.”

Another identified problem is what Eblex called a “consumer disconnect”, with customers lacking understanding of what is the best pack to buy for their usage. “To them it’s just one large area of slow-cooked products with no information to help them decide which pack is best for them.”

Eblex’s research has led to a number of conclusions; firstly, it wants to clear up confusion over terminology, with focus group work showing that consumers didn’t understand the difference between stewing, casseroling and braising. Working with the supply chain, it wants packaging to clarify the situation, with appropriate cooking method instructions.

Another conclusion is that improved “signposting” is needed, making it easier for consumers to find stewing and casserole cuts. Eblex wants shops to have distinct slow-cooking sections to help improve the visibility of the category.

To tackle the inconsistency of product, the organisation has come up with optimum cooking times for each cut, and is calling on the supply chain to group certain primals together. It will then label products into three main cooking time categories, depending on the muscle groups.   

Southam said: “Although they may be different primals, they will have the same relative cooking time and therefore eat the same each time. Then that can be communicated on supermarket shelves to consumers, with recipe suggestions based on those cooking times.”        

The organisation said the ideas had been well received in the industry. While further costs maybe incurred to the supply chain as specifications will need to be changed, Southam said the benefits would outweigh the extra costs. He added: “Hopefully our evidence-based approach should give people a no-brainer.”

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