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Irish shoppers turn to cheaper cuts of meat in light of cost of living crisis

Shoppers are moving into cheaper protein meats and cheaper cuts, said one retailer’s spokesperson.

IRISH CONSUMERS ARE turning to cheaper cuts of meat and own-brand labels to beat the cost-of-living crisis.

Last month, upmarket British chain Waitrose reported that sales of fish heads were up an “incredible” 34% on last year, while spam sales rose by 36%.

The supermarket added that the “use-it-all trend” and a move to cheaper slow cooking seemed to be behind sales of beef shin, ox cheek and lamb neck increasing by 23%, 9% and 4% respectively.

“We’re seeing some big changes,” said Waitrose executive director James Bailey.

Similar changes are afoot on Irish shores.

In a statement to The Journal, Tesco confirmed that it is “seeing a trend with customers seeking out value in their shopping”.

This includes some shoppers “moving into cheaper protein meats and cheaper cuts within the chosen meat categories”.

Tesco also reported increases in sales of value cuts like mince, diced and stewing meats in recent months. 

Lidl has also seen an increase of “traditionally cheaper items” like mince, but a spokesperson told The Journal that the retailer has “seen an increase in sales volumes across all meat and poultry”.  

“For example, we are seeing growth in joints and steaks, particularly as the weekend approaches, which is perhaps indicative of more people choosing to cook at home instead of eating out,” said Lidl’s spokesperson.

Meanwhile, Tesco Ireland says it has also seen a “shift into own label brands in categories such as breakfast meats”.

These consumer changes come at a time of soaring grocery inflation.

In the 12 weeks to 3 October, Kantar found that grocery price inflation hit 12.4%, the highest level seen since Kantar started tracking the data.

Kantar’s recent data also found that 32% of shoppers in Ireland admit they are ‘struggling’ to make ends meet. In March of this year, that figure that was 23%.

As a result, Kantar says that in the 12 weeks to 3 October, sales of retailer own-label lines “jumped” 7.2%.

Kantar noted that “retailers in Ireland continue to respond to consumer demand for value with increased emphasis on own-label ranges”.

A spokesperson for Tesco Ireland told The Journal: “In line with the market, we are seeing some indications of customers switching to Tesco own brand products, including Low Everyday product lines, standard brand, as well as Tesco finest, across many categories.

“With household budgets under increasing pressure, now more than ever we have a responsibility to ensure customers get the best possible value.

“We are absolutely committed to helping our customers manage their budgets, by keeping a laser focus on the cost of the weekly shop.”

The spokesperson said these efforts include the “recently announced new price-lock commitment, freezing the prices on hundreds of everyday products until 2023”.

While the spokesperson said Tesco Ireland works “collaboratively” with suppliers to “minimise impacts to our customers,” they acknowledged that “commodity price increases, changes to input costs, and the impact of global demand can lead to price increases.”

Elsewhere, an Aldi spokesperson pointed towards the recent Kantar data that shows “28% of households say they are struggling to make ends meet due to rising grocery costs.”

Aldi has encouraged shoppers to make “significant savings” by opting for the supermarket’s own-label products over branded goods.

An Aldi spokesperson said this could save households nearly €100 a month.

The spokesperson also noted that “people are shopping more but buying less”, which they say is an “indicator of consumers being more proactive in managing their finances”.

“Non-essential goods such as spirits, wines and ciders are all seeing reduced volume of purchases, while sales of fresh meats such as lamb are also down,” said the Aldi spokesperson.

They added: “Aldi has also seen more consumers choosing to purchase own-label brands rather than eliminating the product entirely from their shop.”

“Across the board, we’ve seen shoppers adjusting their behaviours in response to the cost-of-living crisis,” said Andrew Barling, Insights Manager at Aldi Ireland.

Barling added: “The discount retailer points to farm inputs and output prices as having a major impact on costs, alongside the continuing fallout from Covid and the war in Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Niall O’Connor, Group Managing Director at Aldi Ireland, warned that “the Irish grocery market is experiencing unprecedented cost pressures at present”.

While he conceded that Aldi is “not immune to this,” he added that the retailer is “doing all we can to shield our customers and keep prices low”.

O’Connor claimed that Aldi is “absorbing price increases on a range of products at a significant cost to the business, while selling many products at cost as a result of increased supplier prices”.

He also pointed to increases on a number of core products like milk, butter and bread, which he says are “driven by increased commodity prices including oil, energy and grain costs”.

“While we are at the mercy of increasing costs,” said O’Connor, “we are fighting hard and are continuing to deliver on our price promise.”

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