Premium meat and fish lines win big over Christmas

Premium cooked meats and fish were big winners at major retailers’ tills this Christmas, according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel data.

“Thanks to continued investment in premium own-label brands across the major retailers in 2016, such products finished the year with record 12-week sales of almost one billion pounds,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at the company. “Top-tier lines - including own label fresh and smoked fish, cooked meats such as ham, and wine - performed particularly well.”

Aldi and Lidl’s premium lines also powered strong growth for them during the period, compared to the previous festive season, said McKevitt.

The sales growth noted concerned value sales and McKevitt acknowledged that inflation had returned to the grocery market after 28 months of deflation, with like-for-like prices up 0.2% on last year.

Sales were, however, also helped by the fact that Christmas Eve fell fortuitously on a Saturday, giving shoppers more time to do their final shops than they had in 2015.

Kantar Worldpanel’s 12-week snapshot indicated that grocery sales had shown the fastest recorded growth since June 2014. Overall, supermarket sales rose by 1.8% during the period, with an extra £480m spent in comparison to the same time in 2015.

All four supermarkets showed collective growth in all grocery categories of 0.1%, again the first time this had happened since June 2014.

Waitrose last week reported a big surge in sales of slow-cooked meats, with other poultry and beef also performing strongly. “Meat sales grew overall with popular alternatives to turkey including duck, up 13%, beef rising by 6% and slow-cooked meats surging by 63%,” the upmarket supermarket chain said in a statement.

Butchery retail chain Crawshaw Group last week reported sales up 13% in the five weeks to 1 January amid a rapid store expansion programme. However, like-for-like sales compared to the same period last year fell by 3.8%, despite store openings.

In addition to these comments, Morrisons today (10 January) reported like-for-like sales excluding fuel up 2.9% in the nine weeks to 1 January, despite store closures. The retailer said fresh produce, beers, wines & spirits, its ‘Best’ brand, and the Nutmeg clothing range had been the main drivers of that growth.

The numbers

Comparing the latest 12-week period with the equivalent period last year, McKevitt reported:

• Tesco sales up 1.3%, boosted especially by fresh food. However, this wasn’t enough to stop its market share from falling back by 0.1 percentage points to 28.2%

• Morrisons sales up 1.2% – its first period of growth since June 2015

• Aldi grew sales by 11.8% and market share to 6.0%

• Lidl grew sales by 7.5% and market share by 0.2 percentage points to 4.4%

• Iceland’s sales grew by 9.6%

• Waitrose upped sales by 3.0%

• The Co-op boosted sales by 2.4%

• Sainsbury’s sales down by 0.1%, though it did deliver strong online sales growth having attracted new shoppers to the channel

• Asda’s sales down by 2.4%, but this was a considerable improvement on the 4.7% decline in the 12 weeks to 1 December

Traditionally, shoppers tend to favour the top four supermarkets for Christmas shopping, so Aldi and Lidl’s success in comparison to the big four was all the more significant, said McKevitt.

Kantar Worldpanel’s data compared the 12 weeks to 1 January to the same length of time for the previous year, but these were not strictly like-for-like, as they did not include store openings or closures.

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