Lack of meal planning hits long-term Co-op meat sales

Changing consumer habits over the past 50 years have caused meat products to be removed from shopping baskets in convenience stores. 

According to the The Co-operative’s ‘Back to the Future: 50 Years of Convenience Retailing’, which examines how shopping habits have changed in its stores between 1965 and 2015, meat, bacon and ham were the second most common item found in shopping baskets in 1965, with only milk ahead of them.

However, fast-forward 50 years later and meat, bacon and ham do not even make the top 10.

The Co-operative cites a reduction in customers planning and cooking from scratch as the reason why meat is no longer as big a player for the retailer.

“In 1965 there were no ready meals, so shoppers bought individual items to make a meal from scratch at home,” said Steve Murrells, chief executive of retail. “That is why lard, suet and yeast were also popular products [but not found on the 2015 list].”

Research conducted by Opinion Matters found that only 19% of UK households now plan their meals for the week ahead – with 31% only deciding that day what to eat and 7% only deciding on what to eat when in store. The survey reasoned that the decline in menu planning was down to not knowing what you want that far in advance (32%), uncertain weekly schedules (22%), menu planning killing spontaneity (20%) and getting stuck in a food rut (14%).

The retailer’s changing business model is also why meat is off the menu in The Co-operative’s stores. “In the mid-’60s there were still individual butchers and greengrocers, many operated by The Co-op, so grocery stores concentrated on selling food in packets and tins.”

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