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Processed meat cancer scare impacts sales of bacon and sausages

New figures have shown that sales of pre-packed sausages and bacon have fallen following the publication of a report by the World Health Organisation stating that processed meats can cause cancer.

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Processed meat cancer scare impacts sales of bacon and sausages

Data from global insight specialist IRI, which measures sales across all of the major grocery multiples, has revealed a clear impact on sales. In the weeks ending 31 October and 7 November, total losses for sausages and bacon were estimated to be in the region of £3 million over the two week period.

According to IRI’s figures, value sales for pre-packed sausages were down 15.7% in the week ending 31 October compared to the same week in the previous year, while pre-packed bacon saw an even sharper fall at 17%.

In the week ending 7 November the decline continued at roughly the same rate for bacon with sales dropping by 16.5%. However, the fall in sales of sausages slowed to 13.9% due to some retailers heavily promoting the items during bonfire week.

Other pre-packed meats also saw a decline in sales, down 10% overall. Other meat products and associated food, such as eggs, were not negatively impacted, with overall spending on meat staying broadly consistent.

“While there have been links between certain types of meat and some forms of cancer before, this announcement from a highly respected global body was picked up widely by the media and has had an immediate impact on some people’s shopping choices,” according to Martin Wood, head of strategic insight, retail solutions and innovation at IRI.

“It’s interesting that we saw these trends across all of the retailers, not just some, and a notable lack of impact on items like eggs, fresh meat and other adjacent categories. Also, what came out of our analysis was that premium products were more affected overall. This may have been down to the credibility and science behind the story that resonated more with educated consumers and led them to make more informed (and possibly more expensive) alternative choices.”

IRI believes the long-term impact on sales trends will be different to the horsemeat scandal of 2013.

Wood said: “What we saw a few years ago was a situation where some economy ready meals and other products were found to be contaminated by horsemeat. This impacted particular brands and retailers and there was a big short-term drop in sales. Higher quality products benefited.

“What we may see here is some people making changes to meat buying, moving away from processed meat to non-processed alternatives. This is an opportunity for retailers to look at their ranges and focus on non-processed products, like premium mince and fresh burgers, for example, as well as premium and smoked non-meat products like fish. However it is still early days.”

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