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Shoppers in Europe continue to trend towards Beef, with great opportunity for Irish

Danny Bowles, International Insights & Planning Specialist

Meat Shopper Insights IMG.PNG

We are currently in a strong period for beef in retail, according to the latest findings from our European meat shopper insights, from the period January to February 2021. The incidence of consideration and purchase of beef have increased across key European markets when compared to the same period last year. Consideration has increased especially in the Netherlands and Ireland. Really, consideration for proteins has increased across the board, though not to the same extent as beef though the consideration of pork has increased significantly in the UK and Netherlands. 

Since our Covid indicators work in May 2020, we noted a shopper return to what we called “familiar favourites”, and beef has clearly been one of those. Shoppers had to replace their foodservice experience with more scratch cooking, and have looked for comfort favourites. Beef has clearly filled a need with European shoppers. A higher proportion of beef shoppers are saying they are maintaining their habits around beef, as opposed to reducing or intending to reduce their consumption. And despite plenty of noise at the start of this year driven by Veganuary and the proliferation of meat-free options, there are fewer shoppers in core European markets reducing their beef consumption compared to 2020. The only market in which we’re seeing declines in purchase is Germany.

Trends are very positive now. But looking ahead, with the next wave (March-April 2021) we’ll be comparing to the initial lockdown period of 2020. (And no I can’t quite believe we’ve had a full year of this either!) We expect still to see some year-on-year growth in key metrics around beef and other “familiar favourites”, but it will likely be reduced growth compared to the year-on-year growth we are seeing now. The return of foodservice in 2021 will likely impact also.

So how to get shoppers to continue buying beef? Perceived expensiveness is a core barrier to purchase, especially in the UK, Germany and Sweden. The challenge is to demonstrate the value of beef. Pricing and format size are key methods. But in terms of category management, having well-stocked fridges, new and inspiring options, appealing packaging and meal ideas that show shoppers the finished product on the plate are key. If we are to get shoppers to pay that bit more for beef than other proteins, the shopper has to be convinced it’s worth it. Growing positive associations towards beef can also be leveraged; approximately 6 in 10 European beef shoppers believe beef is the best source of animal protein you can buy, growing especially in the Netherlands and UK, and at least 2 in 3 beef shoppers believe beef is worth paying more for, again growing in the Netherlands especially (Bord Bia, 2021).

And to highlight the value of Irish beef, we can emphasise how our quality beef is produced. Research tells us consumers respond well to Ireland’s key proof points around beef. Grass-fed continues to be a strong driver of future beef purchase. In Ireland and Italy over 1 in 3 shoppers say they would be more likely to buy beef if it’s grass-fed (Bord Bia, 2021). 

Bord Bia has engaged in tracking shopper trends around the meat category in retail since Autumn 2019 in priority European markets. If you’re looking for more information from this work, please get in touch with me at danny.bowles@bordbia.ie. You can view our overall trends deck here. We have more detailed reports per market, with specific retailer findings available on an ad hoc basis.


Bord Bia. (2021). Meat Shopper Insights Series Wave 7.