Market research by TNS

The cooked meat sector has shown a 5% increase in both value and volume year-on-year, which is good growth in a market worth £1.6bn, according to research by TNS. Sliced cooked ham dominates the sector with turkey a surprising second. But the fastest growing product is pork with a 23% growth year-on-year.

Household penetration of sliced cooked meat stands at over 95% and is used in roasts, salads and sandwiches. Growth has primarily been driven by premium products which are up 72% in value and 16.7% in volume. The biggest switch has seen a move away from traditional value, as in the case of ham, to different cures, as in retailers' own brand ranges such as Sainsbury's Taste the Difference and Tesco's Finest.

Commenting on this trend, Richard Cullen, category manager at the Meat & Livestock Commission, says: "The premium sector is driving the cooked meats market with most consumers and retailers looking for something different. It depends on the type of meal they are eating. If the sandwich they are having is a treat with a special bread, such as a panini, they won't be using plain cooked meat." Ensuring it is appealing, with healthy salads and stuffing, makes it an event rather than just fuel. "Sliced cooked meat meets our need for a quick easy meal on the go," Cullen adds.

Chicken is growing between 8-10% in value terms but there are a lot of consumers trading up to turkey, according to Cullen. And the news is even better for the sector as sliced cooked meats show stronger sales growth in the summer, as they are eaten frequently at lunchtimes, and occasionally, in evenings.

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