THERE is a buoyant outlook for retail lamb sales, with Australia Day, easing lamb prices and consumer acknowledgement of the protein's worth just some of the factors predicted to drive sales in 2020.
Meat and Livestock Australia domestic market manager Graeme Yardy noted a slight decline in volume being sold through retailers during the past 12 months, but said the value of sales had held up strongly due to higher prices.
"Looking ahead, we see lamb sales as pretty buoyant," he said.
"It's a really important category for retailers and people still really love lamb.
"If they can get it at a decent price, it can drive a lot of traffic into stores.
"If you look at a lot of retailer catalogues, lamb and beef are on the front page, with at least one cut advertised at a good price."
Mr Yardy said MLA had been working with retailers to provide suitable offers at different price points so all customers could enjoy lamb whenever they wanted, not just when it was discounted.
January and February were traditionally big months for lamb sales, according to Mr Yardy, with MLA recording January lamb sales at 12 per cent higher than any other month in 2019.
A big contributor to January sales has been lamb's association with Australia Day.
Mr Yardy said MLA - renowned for its Australia Day lamb advertising campaigns - was now focused on promoting lamb as a year-round option.
"We used to focus just on one weekend, but we realised that we could be promoting lamb a lot more, which is working well," he said.
"Everyone's got to eat and you can buy lamb all year round, so we want people to choose it regularly."
Their approach includes autumn and spring lamb campaigns, which aim to inspire people to include lamb as part of their routine meals.
The Australia Day lamb connection remains strong though, with Australian Meat Industry Council SA retail chair Trevor Hill, owner of six Bruce's Meats stores in Adelaide, saying his business sees a 20pc to 30pc increase in lamb sales around Australia Day.
Mr Hill said lamb sales had eased in 2019, but only marginally, with consumers becoming "price-desensitised" to lamb and accepting it would be relatively expensive in comparison to other proteins.
"Because the price of lamb has stopped going up and steadied, people have accepted the new price of lamb," he said.
"That has taken three years.
"The demand for backstraps at $65/kg and loin lamb chops at $36/kg has increased. Customers are not chasing legs of lamb at $21/kg, but they're buying smaller portions like mini lamb roasts - which come off the leg at a higher price - because it's a smaller portion and there's no waste."
Mr Hill said demand for chicken products had increased in the past 12 months, but on the back of its affordability, rather than quality.
Chicken skewers will be one of the most popular items at Bruce's Meats Mitcham store ahead of the Australia Day long weekend, with a 50pc increase in sales expected.
"Shaslicks are also very popular heading into Australia Day," he said.
"Last year we did 100kg of shaslicks and 1200 chicken skewers at our Mitcham store alone.
"Marinated steaks also go off the Richter scale - basically half of our trade will be in barbecue meat."
At Richards Quality Meats in Bordertown, owner Steve Richards said they were selling a large volume of lamb, after a small decline during 2019 mainly caused by price.
"Lamb sales pulled back a bit with prices going up, but with prices coming back a bit and with Christmas and summer barbecues happening, sales have gone up again," he said.
The butchery owns its own farm and breeds its own lambs, with 100 per cent of the lamb in the shop from their property.
Mr Richards said lamb sales traditionally spiked in the lead up to Australia Day and he was offering specials on many lamb products this week.
He said popular products for the celebration included french cutlets, loin chops, barbecue lamb chops and drunken lamb roasts, with other popular items from different proteins including gourmet sausages and shaslicks.
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