Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Online opportunities for beef and lamb sales

In recent years the way we shop has been transformed as retailers continue to develop new ways of offering convenience to consumers. This has had an effect on most products, including beef and lamb.

In 2012, Brits were the biggest online shoppers in the developed world, with six out of ten adults shopping online. The ‘weekly big shop’, a staple part of many a household routine for years, has been replaced by home deliveries and the emergence of supermarket express stores, which encourage buying little and often.

Earlier this year, the EBLEX trade marketing team commissioned a survey which found that turnover from online ordering from butchers is expected to rise by 275% in five years – yet only one in three butcher’s shops has a company website, and only a quarter of those have an online ordering facility. This presents a huge opportunity for forward-thinking butchers, but not everyone agrees that ordering meat online is what consumers want.

At the EBLEX 2014 annual conference, which took place recently, Waitrose’s agricultural manager, Duncan Sinclair, said that although the potential and appetite for online shopping was huge, many consumers still prefer to see and feel the meat that they want to eat before buying it. Many butchers will agree that this hands-on shopping experience is valued by their customers, but new buying experiences are continuing to surface.

Waitrose agricultural manager, Duncan Sinclair, at the 2014 annual conference
One example is the flash sale, an online trend which emerged in France but is fast making waves over here. The format is simple; consumers sign up to become members of a private buying club, and in doing so are eligible to buy goods on offer from the flash sale website. These goods are usually designer, high-end products and brands that are hugely discounted for the purposes of the sale. The brands are happy to provide their goods because only the private members get to see the discounted prices. This means that the sale prices are not splashed all over the internet, avoiding any damage to the reputation of these high-end brands.

Although initially this format was used for clothes and household goods, traders are experimenting with food items too. One of the biggest flash sale websites in France is Vente PrivĂ©e, which translates literally as ‘private sale’ and has an impressive eighteen million members across eight European countries. The EBLEX French office is working with them to look at options for getting English beef and lamb out to the wider French market through that vehicle.

Regardless of how people buy, it is important that producers continue to offer a product that will appeal to consumers and fits the target market specification. EBLEX national selection specialist, Steve Powdrill, recently touched on this in a video about the impact of over-fat lambs (below). He highlighted the point that if people have a bad dining experience with lamb, such as ending up with a lot of  fat on their plate, then they’re not likely to buy it next time they are shopping for their groceries – however they choose to do it. It is only by producing the best meat we can and utilising a wide range of marketing channels that we can work to improve sustainability of the beef and sheep meat supply chains.