The news that sales of venison in the UK have reportedly risen by 400% over the last year shows that there may be further scope for growth in the fresh meat and premium ready meal categories, according to category and shopper management specialist, Bridgethorne.

New data from Kantar Worldpanel found that venison sales had soared from £1.2 million in June 2013 to £6.4 million a year later and has been boosted by retail multiples expanding their venison ranges to cater to the growing demand.

“One of the consequences of the horsemeat scandal was not a move away from meat by UK consumers but a move towards fresh meat and particularly leaner, healthier meat,” explains Bridgethorne co-founder John Nevens. “

“However, whilst UK consumers have spent more in the last year on beef (up 2%), pork (4%) and lamb (6%) only volume sales of lamb actually increased. This suggests a continuing love for meat but a desire to explore new options. That’s one of the reasons why multiples like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and even ASDA are planning new venison launches later this year.”

But, adds Nevens, this development could also present new opportunities for suppliers of premium ready meals if consumers’ interest in venison extends beyond the fresh meat counter. Sales of premium ready meals grew in the UK by between 7% and 8% in 2013 taking ready meal sales in major supermarkets above the £2.3bn mark in the past year. However, the overall frozen and chilled market has been in decline with growth coming in the premium ready meal sector.

“Suppliers interested in capitalising on this trend need to commit to achieving a more detailed understanding of what is behind this change in our behaviour, which of us are embracing venison and other meats, and why. Then they need to be able to share those insights with retailers in order to collaboratively grow the category such that both supplier and retailer benefits as a result.”

Nevens’ thinking is based on the Bridgethorne premise that suppliers need to achieve better understanding of the journey made by both product and shopper to the point where they meet at the point of purchase, bearing in mind this point of purchase may be online as well as in-store.

“A range of factors impact on the shopper journey,” adds Nevens. “These can include health concerns, the influence of other family members who consume but don’t shop for the products, convenience, price etc. Unless suppliers understand what these factors are, relative to their own products, any marketing, activation or even new product development activity will not be as informed as it could be or needs to be. This means budget being committed on the basis of guesswork.”

Bridgethorne works with suppliers to understand both the product’s & the shopper’s journey to the point of purchase. In so doing Bridgethorne adds value to both the supplier and the retailer by helping clients achieve a more informed and constructive working relationship with the retailer.