Animal and plant-based meat sales fall as consumer concerns about inflation mount

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Zero Creatives
Source: Getty/Zero Creatives

Related tags Meat Beef Iri plant-based meat

Consumers pulled back on animal-based meat purchases in January after a slight uptick in sales and volume in December, likely related to holiday celebrations at home which for many Americans center around fresh meat, according to data from IRI crunched by 210 Analytics and Hillphoenix.

January’s month over month dip in the volume growth of meat, which had steadily increased since the beginning of 2022, also could reflect consumers’ New Year’s resolutions to save money paired with rising inflation and to eat healthier or the rising popularity of Veganuary.

According to IRI primary shopper survey data, 35% of consumers reported resolutions to save money – this was second behind the 40% who said they planned to eat healthier.

The survey also revealed that 96% of consumers are concerned about the high cost of groceries with eggs continuing to lead the list of examples consumers cite as being more expensive, followed by milk, beef/pork, fresh produce, chicken/turkey and bread,​ according to 210 Analytics

“This is prompting continued money-saving measures when buying groceries among 79% of Americans, such as buying what’s on sale (49%), cutting back on non-essentials (41%), looking for coupons (33%) and switching to store brand items (31%),”​ reported Anne-Marie Roerink, president of 210 Analytics.

January meat sales ‘somewhat subdued’

She pointed out that shifts in consumer perceptions and shopping habits correlates with “somewhat subdued”​ meat sales in January, which saw dollars, units and volume fall for both fresh and processed meat, according to 210 Analytics. It reported dollars spent in the meat department in January fell 1.7% and pounds purchased dropped 4.2% compared to the same time last year.

This reversed a slow but steady month over month recovery in volume that began in the third quarter of 2021 when volume growth ticked up 7 percentage points from -12% yoy in Q2 2021 to -5% in Q3. By Q4 of 2022, volume growth was down only 1% from the previous year and up 1% from 2019, according to the data.

The drop in fresh meat sales in January tracks much lower levels of inflation, which 210analytics notes could not offset the reduction in pounds.

“The average price per pound in the meat department across all cuts and kinds, both fixed and random weight, stood at $4.49 in January 2023,”​ which is only up a slight 2.6% from the same time last year, “continuing a trend of moderating levels of inflation that started in the second half of 2022,”​ so that mean and poultry inflation was far below the 13.2% average increase for total foods and beverages, Roerink explained.

“Yet,”​ she added, “red meat and poultry were among the top five examples cited by consumers when naming products that cost more now than they did last year. As perception is reality, it will be important to continue to underscore value and versatility.”

Plant-based meat sales continue to fall

January’s drop in meat sales and volume also aligned with the increasingly popular trend among some shoppers to give up animal products in January.

The movement to go animal-product free the first month of the year, dubbed Veganuary, did not, however, drive a corresponding uptick in sales of meat alternatives.

Rather, IRI point-of-sales data for the conventional multi-outlet channel showed dollar sales of plant-based meat alternatives (both fresh and frozen) fell 2.7% to $89.6m, while units fell a whopping 21.8% to 16m and volume sales in pounds fell 19.6% to 11m.

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