Sales of processed red meat damaged from cancer scare

It has been revealed that sales of pre-packed sausages and bacon have seen a negative impact as a result of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) recent report, according to global insight leader IRI. 

IRI Retail Advantage, which measures sales across the major retail multiples, showed that since the week of the revelation (w/e 31 October) and the following week (w/e 7 November), losses in sales of sausages and bacon were estimated to be £3 million.  

“While there have been links between certain types of meat and some forms of cancer before, this announcement from a highly respected global body was picked up widely by the media and has had an immediate impact on some people’s shopping choices,” said Martin Wood, head of strategic insight, retail solutions and innovation at IRI.

The figures from IRI reported that value sales of pre-packed sausages saw a decrease of -15.7% for w/e 31 October compared to the same week of last year. This is despite a 12-week decline of -5.6%, and a 52-week decline of -3.1%. Meanwhile, pre-packed bacon saw an even steeper decline, with sales down -17%. The product has fallen -6.5% in the past 12 weeks, and -5.6% in the last 52 weeks. This is equal to a fall in sales of 10% as a result of the WHO report.

In the second week since the report’s release the drop continued much the same for bacon, with sales down -16.5%, whereas sausage sales were down by only -13.9%. IRI believes this can partially be down to the heavy promotion of sausages surrounding bonfire night.

Other pre-packed meats saw a decline in sales, down -10% overall. However, the overall spending of meat stayed more or less consistent, which suggests that consumers switched to other meat products.

“It’s interesting that we saw these trends across all of the retailers, not just some, and a notable lack of impact on items like eggs, fresh meat and other adjacent categories,” continued Wood.

“Also, what came out of our analysis was that premium products were more affected overall. This may have been down to the credibility and science behind the story that resonated more with educated consumers and led them to make more informed (and possibly more expensive) alternative choices.”

Wood predicted there could be a change of consumer habits in the long run, and compared it to the horsemeat scandal. “What we saw a few years ago was a situation where some economy ready meals and other products were found to be contaminated by horsemeat. This impacted particular brands and retailers and there was a big short-term drop in sales. Higher-quality products benefited,” claimed Wood.

“What we may see here is some people making changes to meat buying, moving away from processed meat to non-processed alternatives. This is an opportunity for retailers to look at their ranges and focus on non-processed products, like premium mince and fresh burgers, for example, as well as premium and smoked non-meat products like fish. However, it is still early days.”

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