Beef predicted to be festive favourite this year

A shortage of seasonal turkey workers could result in beef taking the limelight this Christmas
A shortage of seasonal turkey workers could result in beef taking the limelight this Christmas

Beef is expected to challenge the traditional Christmas crown at tables across the country for a second year running, according to new research by AHDB.

Following subdued seasonal celebrations last year due to Covid, AHDB's analysts have taken a look at what this year’s festivities could mean for red meat and dairy.

With fewer party guests at last year’s Christmas dinner, sales of beef roasting joints soared by 18% compared to 2019, with many households switching from turkey to cater to their own personal taste.

Analysts believe that the lingering trepidation of ‘bigger’ gatherings and a shortage of seasonal poultry workers could result in a similar picture at this year’s celebrations, with beef again featuring more prominently.

Specialty cheese such as Wensleydale and brie are also predicted to be festive favourites this year, the levy board's research shows.

Christmas is the biggest event in retail calendars with spend in the two weeks prior to the big day rising 22% compared to an average two weeks of the year.

In 2020, grocery spend during the festive period reached its highest levels, worth £1.8 billion more than the average month.

While households are able to venture out-of-home this Christmas, lasting concerns about Covid has led Kantar to predict grocery sales will remain significantly inflated versus 2019 – up 10% – but down on last year by 3%.

AHDB senior retail insight manager Kim Malley said: “Although last year was unprecedented because of Covid, some of the pandemic behaviours still remain.

"And with issues around seasonal workers and the supply chain, there are many factors that could impact this year’s Christmas dinner.

“If we look at last year’s food sales and household preferences, we can get an idea of what this could mean for red meat and dairy this Christmas.

"While some trends could remain, there are also opportunities for some sectors to experience a return to 2019 behaviours.”

Sectors that could benefit from a resurgence include the traditional Christmas cheese boards featuring a variety of specialty offerings, which lost market share to Cheddar last year.

Pigs in blankets are expected to bring a festive boost for the pork sector, with the traditional key trimming featuring prominently at the Christmas table.

And to mitigate concerns around supply and demand, as well as budget restraints, frozen meat joints are expected to have a stronger Christmas this year.