The meat category as a whole gained 4.7% in dollar sales growth, according to data from NIQ, with unit sales also holding steady, up 0.7%.
“Meat remains the king of the perimeter castle with $90 billion in annual sales,” said Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics LLC. “The dollar growth performance in the meat department is heavily skewed by the very different levels of inflation and deflation. All year, prices of beef and pork have come down, whereas chicken and turkey suffered from very high inflation that is only starting to come down in recent months.”
Scott Patton, vice president of national buying for Aldi, said that the discount supermarket chain has grown meat purchases by nearly 50% over the past five years. “We do this by cutting unnecessary costs like the butcher counter,” he said.
With year-on-year volume flat or slightly down for most of the proteins, it is the level of inflation or deflation that has determined the dollar trajectory, Roerink said. For example, the NIQ data indicates that chicken and lunchmeat experienced double-digit sales growth (both at 13.7%), however, chicken also grew in unit sales (2%), whereas lunchmeat unit sales went down 2.7%.
“The above-average performance in fully cooked meat shows the continued importance of convenience as more and more consumers mix and match items cooked from scratch with items that require just (re)heating,” Roerink said.
The NIQ data indicates that turkey dollar sales rose 10.3% year-over-year, with beef up 0.7% and pork up slightly, at 0.1%. However, in looking at unit sales growth, turkey was down 5.5%. Beef and pork unit sales remained in the green (2.1% and 2.9%, respectively). Also dropping in per unit sales were prepared foods, reporting negative unit sales of 10.6%.
The average price per pound in the meat department across all cuts and kinds ended at $4.56 in the month of May alone (for the four weeks ending May 28, 2023), making it the first time in many months that the average price per pound in the meat department was below year-ago levels (driven by a decrease in the price per pound for processed meat), according to a May Marketplace report by Circana and 210 Analytics.
The May report showed beef experiencing a 2.2% decrease in pound sales, whereas chicken pound sales increased 1.8%. These were marked as the two biggest sellers and remained fairly typical within recessionary and inflationary patterns.
In the past year, grinds generated $14.3 billion, with 84.6% of dollars and pounds being generated by ground beef (exceeding that of total beef), with a year-on-year pound increase of 1.5%. Additionally, ground chicken, pork, and lamb gained in pounds in May, with grinds bringing affordability and versatility to the meat department, according to the report.
Some 78% of Americans self-identify as “meat eaters,” compared to just 7% who describe themselves as vegan or vegetarian, according to the 18th annual Power of Meat report released by the Meat Institute and FMI — The Food Industry Association.