CHICAGO — At the World Wide Food Expo here earlier this month, researchers emphasized that meat and poultry sales have regained ground after a lean period the first two quarters of this year.
Presenting data gleaned from research completed this fall, Merrill Shugoll, Shugoll Research, Bethesda, Md., and Michael Uetz, principal, Midan Marketing, Chicago, illustrated the shift with comparison charts and filled out this year's meat and poultry sales picture.
“The figures confirm consumers' positive attitude toward meat and poultry continues,” Shugoll and Uetz said in their report.
Fresh beef and fresh chicken showed significant gains in the third quarter over the same period a year ago. And, for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 27, 2009, total meat and poultry sales were up 9.3%, and private-label meat and poultry sales were up 13.8%, the researchers reported.
While consumers revised their budgets and priorities during the darkest months of the recession, they obviously did not abandon protein. They traded down in some cases — buying ground beef and bone-in chicken, for example — and they looked more aggressively for promotions and for value.
Steaks, while lagging in the first two quarters of this year, have made a comeback, with premium steaks outpacing regular steaks.
Third-quarter sales of premium steaks rose 15.5%, and regular steaks rose 13.2% compared with the same period a year earlier.
Premium steak also topped regular steak in the second quarter, with sales of premium cuts up 2.5% vs. the same period a year earlier, while sales of regular steaks were down 2.1% during that time. This could reflect the fact that people were eating out less in restaurants, but perhaps did not want to give up a good steak and were willing to cook it themselves, some industry observers suggested.
Even premium ground beef beat regular ground beef sales in the third quarter. Premium was up 12.3% from a year earlier while regular ground beef was up 11.5%.
Meanwhile, chicken consumers apparently decided to take a step down to bone-in. The third quarter of this year showed bone-in chicken breast sales 15.7% ahead of the same period a year earlier. By contrast, boneless breast sales were up just 7.4% from the same period a year ago. In the first quarter, the difference was even greater. Bone-in chicken breast sales showed a 21.9% increase vs. the same period in 2008, with boneless sales up just 9.6% over the previous year.
Researchers concluded that while consumers are gravitating toward lower-priced items, they retain a positive attitude toward fresh meat and chicken and are keeping volume sales growing.