Game gathers momentum

Latest research from Mintel shows that sales for meat such as venison, pheasant and grouse soared 46% between 2004 and 2006, to reach £57m last year.

The research revealed that everyday red meat and poultry markets grew by no more than 5% over the same two year period.

David Bird, senior market analyst at Mintel, said: "The market for game is growing strongly as we increasingly look for exciting, alternative flavours that fit with our renewed interest in good quality food.

"But game also has a surprising fan in health conscious Brits. These meats are low in fat and cholesterol, but are still full of flavour and this healthy image is definitely helping to boost sales, especially amongst women."

According to the Mintel research, the popularity of game shows no sign of abating, with sales set to increase by a further 47% to hit £84m by 2011.

The report said that venison makes up almost half (47%) of game sales, while pheasant, partridge and grouse make up almost a third (31%), with 'other game', such as hare and wild boar, completing the sector, with 22% of sales.

Bird said; "Today's growing concern about the environment and the negative impact of mass produced food is changing the types of food we buy, with many of us opting for food that is organic, locally sourced or bought from a farmers' market.

"As game comes from free ranging animals and is wild and natural, this market is clearly perfectly placed to take full advantage of this trend."

Game is now moving away from being a treat on the odd special occasion, to a meal that is enjoyed on a much more regular basis, the Mintel report said, adding that four in 10 (41%) Brits now eat game, with a further 12% ready to try it.

Bird said: "Game is now more readily available than ever before, with improved standards of handling and hygiene having encouraged supermarkets to stock game.

"Distribution has also improved considerably over the last couple of years and the popularity of these meats amongst top chefs around the country has meant that many more people are getting to taste the likes of venison, partridge and grouse.

"People are clearly becoming more adventurous and are prepared to give these meats a go," he said.