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Earlier Easter Challenges Meat Department Sales


The average price per pound in the meat department across all cuts and kinds, both fixed and random weight, stood at $4.45 in April, according to Circana and 210 Analytics

Prices increased slightly year-on-year, at 1.3 percent – continuing a trend of moderating levels. Looking at the full 52 weeks ending April 30, the average price per pound across all meat and poultry was the same, at $4.44. 

By protein, April prices decreased for beef, pork, lamb, bacon, dinner sausage and processed chicken. Bacon prices were down by double digits in April 2023 compared to April last year. Only turkey and packaged lunchmeat had double-digit inflation, whereas price increases in chicken have started to moderate. 

In April, the very mild inflation in the meat department was unable to offset a 2.8 percent decline in pound sales, resulting in a 1.5 percent decline in dollar sales. On an annual basis, meat sales still tracked 7.2 percent ahead in dollars and pounds were 2 percent below the prior year level. 

Volume sales trends appeared to be on a path of recovery in 2022. However, recovery stalled in the fourth quarter of 2022 and year-on-year volume sales dipped deeper into the negative in the first quarter and April of 2023.  

Assortment, measured in the number of weekly items per store, averaged 494 meat and poultry SKUs in April 2023. 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 percent decrease in fresh meat sales in April versus April 2022. Beef was the biggest seller, and sales were virtually flat compared to last year. 

Lamb had a strong March, but sales fell behind year-ago levels in April. This was influenced by the difference in Easter/Passover timing between 2022 and 2023, when Easter was one week earlier.

The impact of the earlier Easter that likely pushed some of the holiday sales into March can also be seen in smoked ham sales. In April, smoked ham volume was down more than 22 percent, whereas the full-year sales were off by a mere 2.3 percent. Everyday items, such as bacon, dinner sausage and frankfurters experienced increases in pound sales, which may bode well for May sales.

In the 52-week view, dollar sales did remain ahead of year ago levels, but pound sales trailed by 3.5 percent. Frankfurters were the only processed meat item that grew pound sales, at 0.4 percent.

In the past year, grinds generated $12 billion, with 85 percent of dollars and pounds being generated by ground beef. The ground beef performance exceeds that of total beef, with a year-on-year pound increase of 4.2 percent in April when compared to April 2022 sales. Additionally, ground chicken, pork and lamb gained in pounds in April, as grinds bring affordability and versatility to the meat department.

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