UK fresh pork consumption is showing signs of decline, with retail volumes down nearly 7% year-on-year over the third quarter of this year.
In the 12 weeks ending October 2, retail fresh pork purchases fell by 6.6%, although total spending was still 12% up, Kantar data shows, with the more expensive cuts, such as roasting joints and chops, showing the biggest volume falls.
The decline in primary pork sales contrasts with growing primary beef and lamb sales, which have seen prices increase at a lower rate. While the retail price of pork was up 12.6% in the 12 weeks ending September 3, lamb was up just 4.1% and beef 11.5%, Kantar data shows.
Lower priced pork products have seen growth, however. In the 12 weeks to October 1, bacon volumes were up 2.3% year on year and sausage volumes up 1.7%, with mince also recording growth.
“Growth in these products could be from consumers being very money conscious as they tend to have a cheaper price point. These cuts are also family favourites and tasty which consumers look for in times of economic uncertainty,” AHDB analysts Isabelle Shohet said.
Kantar data also shows notable growth in foodservice pigmeat volumes. In the 52 weeks ending 03 September 2023, pig meat volumes in foodservice grew by 7.2%, including growth of 13.2% year-on-year for dine in/on the go, compared to a decline of almost 2% in the takeaway category, according to AHDB estimates based on Kantar out-of-home (OOH) data.
“Pricing in both retail and foodservice settings remains an important factor in determining demand for red meat. Volumes of pork have declined mainly due to a fall in volumes purchased per shop in 12-week data and falls in takeaways such as pizza and Asian cuisines,” Ms Shohet said.
Ms Shohet said domestic demand was one of the factor’s influencing the recent UK pig price drop, as fewer consumers purchasing pork reduces pressure on the market.
The main driver, however, is likely to be falling EU prices, which have fallen for longer and with larger price drops, impacted by falling consumer demand and industry restructuring. EU prices are now establishing a more typical discount over GB prices – with the most recent EU reference price more than 30p ahead of the equivalent UK price – which could make EU product more attractive to buyers, she said.
Defra’s figures show September UK clean pig slaughterings were down 11% year-on-year, at 780,000 head, with pigmeat production 10.2%, down. This followed year-on-year slaughtering deficits of 6% in August and 15% in July. AHDB’s estimated GB slaughterings for October remain way below year earlier levels.
Imports from the EU are, unsurprisingly against this backdrop, on the rise. The latest HMRC UK pork trade data shows overall pigmeat imports were up 8% year-on-year in August at 65,600t tonnes, with fresh and frozen pork imports up by around 23% and bacon by 12%.
This was the fourth consecutive month of year-on-year increases, although overall import volumes in the year to August remain below 2022 levels.
Rising imports had not translated into significant changes in the proportion of British pork on retail shelves in September, however, according to the latest Porkwatch survey.
It showed that that British product facings were virtually unchanged on July across the categories, with 88% for fresh pork, also similar to a year ago, 55% for bacon, 64% for ham and 77% for sausage. The bacon, ham and sausage figures were 8-10 percentage points down on a year ago, however.