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Cured and Iberian products, new engines of growth for the consumption of processed meats

In recent years, the consumption of processed meat in Spain has moved at the rate set by the main food trends, with the focus aimed at satisfying the demand of a consumer increasingly concerned about the nutritional value of products, their artisanal production and convenience. This is why product ranges thought of as being healthier, with a more hedonistic image or those with components related to individual consumption are reaping the best results in their marketing.

06 Jul 2020

And among them, there are some clear winners, including cured meats from Iberian pigs, both their ham and also sausage and tenderloin. Last year saw growth in volume of over 5% in both cases, which is well above the average recorded for cured meats as a whole, according to the consultants Kantar. This increase can be attributed to not only their growing perception as a healthy and premium product but also to the recent overproduction by the Iberian ham industry with the consequent significant reduction in price.

Meanwhile, the consumption of cured meats during the weeks of the health alert focused, mainly, on the online channel and on sliced packs, with a growth in value of almost 109% registered between the beginning of March and the last week of April 2020, making it one of the 20 fastest growing categories in the country, according to Iri. Once the first easing measures began, the consumption of sliced products moderated, while the purchase of cured meats at the deli counter saw an upswing. In total, elaborated meat products accounted for 3% and 5% of the value of the shopping basket in physical shops and e-commerce, respectively, during lockdown.

By categories, and based on Nielsen's data for the MAT up to last February, one month before the start of the lockdown due to Covid-19, cured meat products, including cured ham, loin and salami, rose 0.8% in volume to reach 149,000 t consumed. The data demonstrate the leading specialists' successful strategy of enhancing the healthy aspect of these products through reductions in salt and fat; or by increasing ranges made from specialities such as Duroc or Celta pigs, and even from organic livestock, two of the initiatives that have accounted for most of the innovations in the sector over the last two years.

Among the most active products in terms of R&D and the move towards new packs aimed at a more individual consumption, such as snacks or single slices, is chorizo, one of the products that has had the greatest commercial success in recent years. In 2019 alone, it once again registered a growth in volume of between 0.6%, as estimated by Kantar, up to the 2.2% achieved by the modern distribution outlets, according to the consultant Iri, with a volume that oscillates between the 32,000 t indicated by the latter to the more than 41,000 t estimated by Kantar. Also noteworthy is the sales of loin, with an 8% rise in retail according to Iri, although with a volume almost five times lower than that of chorizo. Meanwhile, ham, which makes up the lion's share of cured meat sales, with 65% by volume of the sector, recorded an increase of 1% up to last February.

New slowdown in cooked meat sales

On the other hand, and according to Nielsen data, cooked products, including York ham, turkey and chicken, lost 0.5% in volume for the MAT up to last February to stand at 161,000 t sold. A decline that has been repeated for the second consecutive year, despite being a previous preference of the national consumer as it was considered to be healthier in some cases, than sausage. In order to face this new situation, it will be necessary to improve in nutritional terms and this is the reason behind the number of products launched with very high meat content, exceeding 80% in all cases; recipes that include vegetables and even superfoods; and new organic cooked varieties. Not surprisingly, the sale of organic cured meats, although with still low volumes, is registering double-digit increases.

Among the cooked meats, turkey has been showing the worst trend recently, with a decrease of 3% in domestic consumption, according to MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) data for the past year; or 1.9% in the volumes audited by Kantar, with just over 50,000 t sold. Including all cooked poultry meats, and according to retail consumption figures from Iri, the drop has been reduced to 0.5%, thanks to the momentum of cooked chicken meats. In the case of cooked ham, with just over half the total volume in the category and 83,000 t, the drop was 1.8%, about 2,000 t less in a single year, although the sliced packs maintained their demand and only decreased 0.1%. Other cold cuts such as chopped meat have continued their collapse, after losing at least 7% of their volume in 2019.

Beyond the traditional products, specialists do not want to miss the train on the veggie trend and, they are thus, beginning to take positions in the growing market for plant-based products - those that reproduce the experience of eating meat. And it is not to be forgotten that veggie diets have grown by 27% in the last two years. An example of this dynamism is the growth recorded by plant-based sausage and sausages, with increases of 13.7% by volume, compared to the stability of the animal alternative (+ 0.0%), both according to Iri .