While import and export sales were expected to be lower this year, the levy body said volumes of lamb sold through takeaway and delivery channels soared by 37% in the 52 weeks to 13 June 2021 (Kantar out-of-home data). Accounting for 11.4% growth in retail sales volumes, the 12-month period proved a good one for lamb meat, delivering a 10.3% volume increase overall.
The pandemic had driven a sledgehammer through dine-in and on-the-go sales, which fell by 56%, with traditional meat-centred meals such as roasts, chops or shepherds pie hit the hardest. However, taking both channels together, foodservice sales of lamb had risen by 3% to 15.5 million kg, with kebabs tipping the scales, with sales up 1.5m kg.
Most of the growth in takeaways had come from new consumers buying into lamb, AHDB said.
Pork and beef down in foodservice
By contrast, foodservice volume sales fell for pork by almost a quarter and for beef by 16% over the period. The picture was also less rosy for pork exports, as China continued to recover from African swine fever hitting pig herds, lessening demand for pork imports from the UK.
However, strong retail sales had offset declines in savoury pastry, meat-centred meals, sandwiches and breakfasts for pork, meaning volume sales increased 1.5% overall. Including retail sales, beef sales ended the 12 months almost flat, up just 0.7%.
"The kebab industry is thriving at the moment," said David Swales, head of strategic insight at AHDB during its Agri-market outlook for July presentation. "That's been a welcome boost for lamb. The channels that have been hardest hit, perhaps lamb doesn't play as much in.
Greggs sausage roll
"The other big winner has been the Greggs sausage roll recently. The return to the high street during the opening up has obviously allowed their physical stores to do better. They have also recently moved into the delivery space as well, so that's been one of the positives for pork.
"The other factor we have this year is last time round when we had lockdown there was a lot of disruption for family occasions and lamb was really hit at Easter.
"This time around families were able to get together at Easter and lamb has done really well, so that's another reason why lamb has been in a really good position."
Commenting on the dairy sector, AHDB expected domestic milk production to grow slightly for both 2021 and the 2021/22 season. The domestic demand balance between retail and foodservice was expected to gradually shift in the direction of pre-pandemic levels, although retail demand would remain elevated this year. Global prices might decline slightly, due to growing supply and lessening demand internationally.
Chris Gooderham, head of market specialist (dairy & livestock) at AHDB said UK trade had been improving since the initial shock of exiting the EU, but continued to be challenged by requirement for Rules of Origin paperwork, and logistical issues.
UK prices could decline as import demand and activity increased, said Gooderham.