Brand strategies are credited with growing sales from £1.4bn to more than £1.7bn in ?ve years


THE COOKED meats market has experienced growing sales up from £1.4bn in 2000 to £1.73bn in 2005 - a rise of 24%. This has been due to the success of branding strategies among the major players, including the multiples, according to a new report from Mintel.

The development of trusted premium brands as well as effective product segmentation for healthy eating, organics and other aspects has also boosted spending levels. The report also reveals not only are more consumers enjoying international foods, but that they are willing to pay more for better quality and feel that they do have a little time to spend preparing food.

In part, this is also due to the new way in which 'cooking' is being defined. The process can now range from cutting up raw ingredients to simply adding a sauce to prepared meats and vegetables and assembling a dish from a variety of meal components. This offers a new role for foods such as cooked meats and, as a result, retailers and suppliers are beginning to educate consumers about this.


Cooked meats continue to be tied to specific meals (particularly salads and sandwiches) in the minds of many consumers. As such there is a seasonal element to sales with a lift in the summer period tied with higher consumption of eating cold foods in warmer months. The impact was notable in 2003 when a long hot summer added a considerable lift to sales of all products.


With a 55% market share, ham is the primary protein in the market as a whole. As the best selling segment of the cooked meats market there has been further concentration of activity in ham. New product developments, including premium, healthy eating, and organic ranges, have all added value. For many consumers ham is a fridge staple, ideal for feeding the family, and an established part of the weekly shop that the consumer never wants to be without.


In the other cooked meats segment the concentration of activity has been in the poultry sector, particularly chicken. Sliced meats have seen some progress but there has been a high level of investment in portioned products. The range of flavoured, marinaded fillets and pieces has expanded as suppliers have sought to offer more exciting meal centres, as well as encourage the use of the meats as a meal compo-nent in contemporary ethnic dishes. These offer consumers savings in time, effort and energy in the kitchen.


Continental meats have experienced the highest level of growth. The market is still relatively young when compared to ham and or meats, with consumers still learning and experimenting across the portfolio. The buyer profile for such meats is more upmarket with a higher proportion of ABC1 households than delicatessen meats. In addition the growth in pre-packs has also lifted values.


Prepacks continue to take market share from loose products and account for the biggest proportion of sales in the cooked meats sector. The supermarkets are faced with a quandary as pre-packs are easier and cheaper to stock, but their customers like having an in-store deli counter, even if they do not buy much from it. Some of the multiples continue to develop grab-and-go formats - a halfway house between the deli counter and pre-packs.


The cooked meats market is dominated by retailer own brand products. In part this has been due to the success of the multiples' branding strategies, with effective differentiation and improvements in product quality leading to increased trust among consumers. Bernard Matthews leads manufacturer brands with a particular metier in cooked poultry meat. During 2005, the company took a strong role in investing in the cooked meat sector. The aim was to boost weight and frequency of cooked meat usage by encouraging consumers to use meats more creatively and to diversify its usage.


Future growth in the cooked meats market will depend on increased volume sales and value, according to Mintel. Suppliers have begun to recognise this, but there is considerable scope for further product development offering more user-friendly meal and snack solutions. Healthy eating will also be an important driver with a focus on salt content, as well as further development in the meat-free category and the possibility of functional food launches. In all cases, consumer education will be the key to success.