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AHDB: Opportunities for red meat convenience products

Consumer lifestyles continue to support the need for convenient food options, with quick simple meals which are ‘easy to prepare’ rising in popularity since the pandemic, according to AHDB.

Posted on Jul 08 ,00:18

AHDB: Opportunities for red meat convenience products

When looking at preparation methods for lunch and evening meal occasions, scratch cooking has lost share and, as people crave speedy cooking, convenience preparation methods have grown since 2020 (Kantar Usage, 52 w/e 18 February 2024). Convenient meals can of course contain primary meat cuts, coupled with other convenient elements, for example mince with a Bolognese sauce. However, for this article we are focusing on what we have defined as total red meat convenience products which are produced to meet this need specifically. For example, ready meals and added value options.

Despite the need for convenience growing, the red meat convenience products category experienced a volume decline of -2.1% (Kantar Purchase, 52 w/e18 February 2024).

Convenient meals are in high demand

The need for convenience is at its 5 year peak for evening meals, with pizza and oriental dishes being most popular, and pizza and Italian dishes being the most popular options at lunch.

Both lunch and evening meal average cook times have been decreasing since 2021, averaging 8.6 mins for lunch and 27.1 mins for evening meal preparations in 2024 (Kantar, 52 w/e 18 February 2024). This highlights the need for convenient meal solutions for a multitude of occasions.

Across lunchtime and evening meal occasions, ‘ease’, including ease of preparation and clear up, matters more than ‘speed’.

Share of servings ‘Easy to prepare or clean up’ and ‘Quick to prepare’ | 52w/e 21 January 2024 | Kantar Usage

While convenience attributes are beneficial, other needs should not be dismissed, and taste and filling needs remain most important (for lunch and evening meal occasions combined). 

Despite these behaviours, red meat products that lend themselves to convenience have been in purchase decline. Across all red meat categories, volumes purchased of convenience products (ready meals, chilled main meal accompaniments, pastries/pies, ready to cook and sous vide) have declined from last year (52 w/e 18 Feb 2024). Lamb and pigmeat saw the most volume decline year-on-year, at -4.5% and -4% respectively.

Though this paints a negative picture for red meat convenience performance, total beef makes up 50% of the share, and is only in marginal decline, performing much stronger than total MFP, showing that the appetite is still there. Pigmeat accounts for 44% of red meat convenience products, whereas lamb remains a small sector in convenience at just 6%.

Ready meals make up for almost 41% share of red meat convenience. However, due to poor performance in 52 w/e 18 Feb 2024, these products have contributed towards 62.2% of total red meat convenience performance decline.

In terms of share within the convenience sector as a whole, ready meals have huge importance at the lunch occasion, down marginally YoY but up by over 50 million occasions vs 2020. Interestingly, the longer-term growth was led by pre-family, young and middle families, highlighting potential for these key demographics.

Beef pastries and pies are top performers

Within Red Meat convenience, Pastries/Pies and Ready Meals together make up over 80% of volume share. The pastries and pies category was the only one to see growth YoY, driven by Pasty, Hot Pies and Sausage Rolls performance. Most of this growth for pastries and pies stemmed from beef, meanwhile pork struggled across all categories.

Pies and pastries are popular with all demographics, and over index most with families. Their ability to tap into the valued ‘filling’ needs, whilst being cost effective could explain the appeal.

Opportunities

Considering the growing consumer interests in convenience attributes to meals, there are large opportunities to meet ongoing needs for red meat products:

Bringing restaurant style meals into the home

Since 2020, cuisine led dishes have gained share and Italian dishes have been featuring more at meal occasions. Pizza holds a strong position, having a significantly larger share with younger life stage groups, as well as having a cheaper price point compared to total red meat convenience. Large pizza’s also have the added benefit of being able to feed multiple people.

Ease is more important than speed

Champion low effort meal solutions, in easy to cook formats. Examples include cook in a bag and ready to cook options.

Older shoppers are key for the convenience category

Older shoppers dominate convenient red meat purchases and the decline of volumes from this demographic has been hugely influential, particularly for ready meals. Though convenience remains high up on the importance list for consumers, mealtime needs such as enjoyment, variety and how filling a meal is must also be considered. Pushing these enjoyment elements of ready meals could be key.

Continue to drive growth in younger shopper demand

Pies, pastries and pizzas are popular with younger shoppers and families, with beef pies and pastries performing especially well at evening meal occasions for families. Maintenance of the strong performance of ready meals within this demographic is key for future resilience, enhanced by enjoyment attributes bringing in an element of 'pester power'.

Promotional activity is key for volume growth

In comparison to total red meat (26.8%), convenience (32.3%) has a high proportion on promotion. Though it is important not to rely on promotions, in most cases, convenience red meat products on promotions have experienced positive volume changes YoY, whereas items not on promotion haven’t performed as well.

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