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March meat sales stayed within 1.5% of last year’s level in pounds. In dollars, sales were virtually flat at -0.6%.

Meat sales remain flat in March

Combination of mild inflation with subdued volume pressure was not good for the category

March prices decreased for beef, pork, lamb, bacon and smoked ham when compared to March 2022, according to research from Circana (formerly IRI), 210 Analytics and IDDBA. Only packaged lunchmeat had double-digit inflation, whereas price increases in chicken and turkey have started to moderate.

March meat sales stayed within 1.5% of last year’s level in pounds. In dollars, sales were virtually flat at -0.6%. Fresh meat was the biggest seller and outperformed processed meat in dollars and pounds.

Both dollar and pound sales trend around year ago levels in March 2023, but a tough January pulled down the results for the entire first quarter of the year.

Assortment, measured in the number of weekly items per store, is averaging 491 meat and poultry SKUs. Levels are holding steady against the 2022 averages but remain down substantially against 2019.

In all, the combination of mild inflation with subdued volume pressure prompted a -0.5% decrease in fresh meat sales in March 2023 versus March 2022. Beef was the biggest seller and lamb was the only one to grow dollars and pounds in March.

March processed meat sales remained right around year-ago levels in both dollars and pounds. Smoked ham pulled sharply ahead of March 2022, likely due to the different timing of Easter between the two years. Packaged lunchmeat, dinner sausage and processed chicken grew dollars, but lost ground in pounds.

In the 52-week view, dollar sales did remain ahead of year-ago levels, but pound sales trailed by 1.9%. Aside from smoked ham trending ahead, frankfurters came closest to matching last year’s pound sales, at -0.2%.

In the past year, grinds generated $14.2 billion, with 85% of dollars and pounds being generated by ground beef. The ground beef performance exceeds that of total beef, with pounds down a mere -1.3% over the full-year view and up year-on-year in March. Additionally, ground chicken, pork and lamb gained in pounds in March as grinds bring affordability and versatility to the meat department.



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