Campylobacter scare causes drop in chicken sales

Year-on-year sales of whole chickens dropped in the 12 weeks ending 7 December, prompting speculation that consumers are buying less due to the campylobacter scare.

Campylobacter has been in the media spotlight in 2014 after a whistleblower reported alleged breaches of hygeine rules in 2Sisters and Faccenda poultry factors earlier in the year. More recently, Food Standards Agency survey results revealed that 70% of fresh whole chickens tested positive for the presence of campylobacter.

The latest sales statistics, released by consumer knowledge company Kantar Worldpanel, indicate that the focus on the bacteria has affected whole chicken sales. Spend for the 12 weeks ending 7 December decreased by 3.8% compared to the same period last year, while the volume sold decreased by 6.8%.

Market researcher Mintel said: Concerns about cooking safely with raw chicken are likely to have been heightened by the campylobacter scandal. While many people may simply be extra careful when preparing and cooking chicken, it may also deter some consumers from buying raw chicken to eliminate risk.

However, a number of retailers suggested that the their chicken sales had not been affected by the scare, including Marks & Spencer and Lidl. A Lidl spokesperson said: Our poultry sales have remained steady, as we continue to work in partnership with our suppliers to reduce the levels of campylobacter in raw chicken.

Furthermore, experts have hinted that other reasons could be behind the apparent decrease in sales, including a recent increased spending power which could be allowing people to spend more on pricier meats.

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