Poultry sales see negligible effect from campylobacter coverage

While fresh whole chicken volumes are down, popular fresh cuts are still buoyant, suggesting that media focus on campylobacter has not put consumers off buying poultry.

Recent data from Kantar Worldpanel revealed that spend on fresh whole chicken dropped 5.7% to 139.3m, for the 12 weeks to 4 January 2015, compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, volumes were down 8.3% to 47,397 tonnes (t) for the same period. This is on the back of declines seen in the 12 weeks to 7 December 2014, or 3.8% in value and 6.8% in volume.

However, sales results have been more mixed for fresh chicken cuts over the same four-week period to 4 January 2015. Total spend on fresh poultry, including whole chickens, was down 3.4%. However, crown joints saw sales increase 51.4%, and wings were up 14.6%. Chicken breasts, the most popular cut, only saw a slight decrease of 1%, to 202m.

Hayley Lomax, client manager at Kantar Worldpanel, told Meat Trades Journal: Bigger types of chicken cut, such as roll and roast, have tended to decline in the past 12 weeks. However, crown joints have grown by some 51%. This could be down to Christmas, with shoppers switching to more convenient cuts like crown joints, which are easier to prepare and cook for the Christmas roast.

She suggested that the decline in whole fresh chicken was likely to be down to shoppers moving in to more convenient cuts, as opposed to the effect of campylobacter.

There is another interesting point around chicken breasts. They are the most popular chicken cut accounting for 49% of fresh chicken sales and they have seen the smallest decline at just 1%, added Lomax.

One might think that if campylobacter had had a significant effect, then shoppers would have avoided them and the category would have really suffered.

The Food Standards Agency named and shamed retailers due to the high levels of campylobacter found in supermarket chicken on 27 November last year.

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