Room for all in the market

Although we all know the impact the recent hot weather has had on beef sales, it's worth reminding ourselves that in the 52-week period ended 16 July 2006, GB purchases of fresh and frozen beef were up 3% year-on-year, writes Richard Ali, chief executive of EBLEX.

In fact, beef consumption is at its highest since 1990, and shows every sign of staying that way, which is heartening news for everyone in the industry. And judging by the increasing number of people coming to EBLEX for help in starting up their own butcher's shop or farm shop, it's a market where people are clearly seeing the opportunities.

And it's a market where there is room for a wide variety of offerings. While there is a group of consumers who will always shop on price and promotional offers, consumer research has shown that for the majority of the population, price promotions on beef are not a driver of extra sales.

And that's where the independent sector comes in, with the unique ability to focus on bespoke customer service, and factors such as the provenance, traceability and eating quality of the beef they sell.

This was shown recently in sales of beef mince following the launch this spring of the EBLEX Quality Standard Mark for mince, which aimed to secure a smooth return of beef from older animals onto the market. In the month following its launch, the largest volume sales increase came from the independent sector where sales were 24% up on the same time last year compared with just over 15% in the market in general.

We continue to see a very positive future for independent retailers.