Matthew SouthamMatthew Southam, multiple retailer account manager for EBLEX, believes that market research and data analysis is critical to sustaining long-term demand and enhancing customer satisfaction in the beef and lamb categories. 

At EBLEX, we place great emphasis on consumer and market research and invest a significant amount of time and resource in this area. Understanding the consumer is central to everything we do at EBLEX; in fact, it lies at the heart of all retailing strategies and it is only with such knowledge and insight that we can genuinely provide shoppers with what they want in the red meat aisle. 

As part of AHDB we are able to benefit from information from the organisation’s Market Intelligence division. 

A key role of Market Intelligence is to communicate accurate, timely, independent and impartial information on beef and lamb markets and prices. The aim is to ensure levy-payers and stakeholders are properly informed of changes in markets which will equip them with information to make better informed business decisions. Our analysts communicate this information through numerous publications and reports and via AHDB websites, including the EBLEX corporate website,

Through the Market Intelligence Consumer Insight team we have access to an abundance of data gathered from specialist research organisations, such as Kantar WorldPanel, YouGov and others.

We commission a huge amount of research to help us better understand consumer behaviour and shopper habits. In some ways, that’s the easy part – anyone can commission research. What’s difficult is making sense of the resulting data. This is where I believe we really demonstrate our value to the industry; in consolidating, interpreting and communicating that data and, in doing so, providing the meat industry with tangible, actionable recommendations.

A great example of EBLEX doing just that was through the publication of the 2013 report, The Shopping Decision Process for Meat, which provided a valuable overview of purchasing behaviour in supermarkets. The report explored the influences that prompt shoppers to choose one particular meat cut in preference to another. We worked closely with retailers and processors to apply the insight derived from the research and helped them fine-tune their strategies for growth in the red meat category. 

We also use research to hone our product development strategies and an excellent recent example is EBLEX’s range of beef and lamb Carvery mini roasts. There has been a steady decline in the roasting category in the retail market in the last few years. Without market insight data we could only guess as to the reasons why. Our research revealed that the fall in demand can be attributed to a shift in consumer eating habits brought about by a number of factors, such as increased time and financial pressures as well as a rise in the number of smaller households. No longer satisfied with a large roasting joint, consumers are now crying out for a wider, more relevant range to choose from. With The Carvery, we have developed a range of smaller, more cost-effective roasting joints that, we believe, will help bring shoppers back into the roasting category. 

We have just completed a further research project, the findings from which are helping to shape our latest advertising campaign – promoting mid-week mini roasts.  

We also commission research into the dynamic and fast-changing foodservice sector, using data from NPD Crest and other sources to keep abreast of the latest trends and developments – with the aim of providing caterers with strategic advice on how to seize the opportunities which exist and take advantage of what consumers are looking for when dining out of the home.    

Hot off the press are the findings from new research into the independent retail sector. The survey provides revealing insight into the sector and, in particular, the online marketing opportunity. Unsurprisingly, the proportion of turnover accounted for by online sales is quite low for butchers. Only 8% of butchers currently offer their customers an online shopping facility. The potential, however, is huge: online retailing is an area which continues to grow as consumers change the way they purchase goods and butchers who offer an online shopping facility stand to benefit. The research also highlighted a general lack of online presence within the sector, with two-thirds of butchers surveyed not having a company website. We now understand and appreciate the barriers to embracing the online opportunity and can refine our plans to more effectively support butchers in this area.

These are challenging yet exciting times for the meat industry and I believe that those businesses which are receptive to the kind of new ideas and opportunities highlighted by research insight will be best placed to succeed.   

If there is something in particular you’d like to discuss, I’d welcome the opportunity to meet and explore the possibilities.   

This article first appeared in the June issue of Meat Management.

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