Britain is a nation of carnivores and our penchant for protein shows no sign on waning. It is therefore not surprising to learn that the UK fresh and frozen meat and poultry market is worth a combined value of £1,814m and itís expected to continue to grow.
Chicken is the best-selling protein in volume terms and was expected to achieve sales of 552,000 tonnes in 2011, a 6% increase since 2006, boosted by its popularity as a value option in the recession. According to Mintel, the estimated value of the poultry market (2011) is £2,677m. This is expected to rise to £3,673m in 2016. Overall, value growth is expected to be faster ñ at 23% to £3.3bn.
Latest data from NPD/Crest shows that the total number of beef servings in the out of home environment increased by 10% to 1.3bn in the 52 weeks ending March 2012. Beef featured in 40.6% of red meat servings, making it the best performing protein in the foodservice sector during the 12 month period.
Donít worry, the above doesnít refer to some new trend for see-through food, but caterers making the provenance of their products clearly available to consumers. According to Mintel, 42% of consumers pay attention to what they eat and where it comes from, particularly when it comes to meat and poultry. ìThe origin, quality and appearance of poultry rank highly with consumers,î says Toni Koumi, operations manager for Love Joes. ìAnimal welfare standards and freshness are other factors that will be considered in the buying process.î
The good news for consumers is that there are various official stamps of approval, like the Red Tractor logo which shows that products have come from somewhere reputable, and itís up to caterers to inform them. Red Tractor-accredited products are sourced from farms and food companies that meet high standards of food safety and hygiene, animal welfare and environmental protection, and the mark is something that consumers are looking out for.
Consumers have always wanted value for money, but the recent growth in the poultry market reflects the change in consumersí buying habits, due to the economic downturn and the increased demand for cheaper protein products. ìPoultry is extremely versatile and has the potential to generate a better gross profit in comparison to many red meat products,î says a spokesperson for Plusfood.
ìIt is therefore an ideal choice for caterers looking to make their budgets work harder ñ a key consideration in these tough economic times.î
When it comes to poultry consumption, chicken far outweighs that of turkey, with 73% eating chicken weekly compared to just 11% for turkey. However, the tide is turning for turkey, as ambassadors demonstrate how to get the best out of this under-exploited, cost-effective meat. ìOne of the biggest selling points of turkey today is that itís often cheaper to buy than other proteins, while commanding the same price point on menus,î says Duncan March, general manager for Bernard Matthews Foodservice.
Sales of beef are also growing in the out of home arena, with burgers being the most consumed item, having increased by 10% during March 2012.
This increase has helped to drive the growth of total beef servings. ìThe items we find most popular with students are burgers, pies and sausage rolls,î explains Wayne Wright, head chef for Harper Adams University College. ìThey are quicker and more convenient for them to eat on the go when they donít have much time.î
For lamb, meanwhile, the total number of servings declined by 6% to 186m during the same period and represented a 5.8% share of the total number of red meat servings out of the home. ìAlthough currently in decline, it is anticipated that the number of lamb servings will begin to recover,î predicts Hugh Judd, foodservice project manager for EBLEX. ìAs new season lamb becomes more widely available and therefore more affordable for caterers, chefs are likely to
add more lamb dishes to their menus.î
Pork has always represented good value for money. Not only does it usually offer a better price per kg than other red meats, but price increases have remained slower than for beef or lamb. This is crucial in todayís economic climate when cash-strapped consumers are demanding greater value than ever before.
ìThere are great opportunities for caterers and operators to use pork and pig meat to add value and interest to menus,î says Tony Goodger, foodservice trade manager for BPEX. ìWhatís more, theyíll be delivering a satisfying experience for diners who themselves have a real attachment to pork cuts and products, including chops, steaks and bacon.î
With an increasing number of the population being classed as overweight and obese, consumers, including students, are considering their health more when eating out of home. Therefore, chicken and turkey are popular choices due to their low fat and high protein content. ìThe health benefits of chicken are well documented and this appeals to university students too,î explains Nigel Parkes, purchasing and marketing director for Atlantic Foods. ìHealth conscious consumers probably wonít need much encouragement as they will be actively looking for a healthier alternative, so it is important to offer them something that fits the bill.î
As well as being a great source of healthy protein, chicken contains a good percentage of selenium and B vitamins, which are important for good health. Many recipes can be adapted by using less fat but still offer tasty meals, from a great British roast to BBQ, Chinese, Mexican, Italian or Indian meals. ìChicken is one of the most popular meats sold today and provides a multitude of menu options to incorporate the recommended ëfive a dayí which encourages healthy eating,î says James Rasor, product assurance director for Crown Foods.
University catering has a responsibility to offer healthy, varied and full flavoured meal options for its consumers. Chicken fajitas are one of the most popular Mexican recipes around.
ìHot wraps in particular are the new big thing as a close competitor to a hot meal and a perfect grab and go option,î
says Toni Koumi, operations manager for Love Joes. ìCaterers need to be aware that their customers demand variety in their meal choice and are often influenced by broader social and cultural trends.î
Letís not rule red meat totally out of the healthy eating equation because it too is an important dietary source of minerals, in particular iron and zinc, which are essential for good health and physical well-being. ìStating dietary facts on menus is a great way for caterers to engage with their consumers,î says Nick Phipps, marketing manager for 3663.
Although meat and poultry remain popular, caterers canít rest on their laurels ñ they need to provide top quality products that offer value for money in order to keep the customers happy.
Atlantic Foods www.atlanticfoods.co.uk
Bernard Matthews Foodservice
Crown Foods www.crownfoods.co.uk
Love Joes www.lovejoes.co.uk
RH Hall www.rhhall.com
The University Caterers Organisation Ltd Technology House
2 Lissadel Street