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Porkwatch survey shows mixed results, amid labelling shift

3rd May 2023 / By Alistair Driver

The latest AHDB Porkwatch figures showed very mixed results in terms of support for British pork products across the 10 retailers surveyed.

There was a welcome increase in the proportion of British pork on display; up to 86% overall in March, from 84% in January and 81% a year ago.

Porkwatch Mar 23 pork baconAldi, Co-op, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s all recorded 100% British with Waitrose on 97% and Asda and Tesco both upping their proportion of British to 66% and 77% respectively. Iceland was on just 5%, however.  

Porkwatch Mar 23 ham sausage

The proportion of British ham on display was up to 67% in March, from 64% in both January and March 2022. Asda, Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose all made improvements to 41%, 39%, 92% and 97% respectively, while others slipped back, including Co-op, which dropped from 100 to 96% and, most notably, Morrisons, from 60% to 44%.

However, there were big declines in bacon, down from 61% to 55%, and sausage, from 89% to 76% in the March survey.

M&S and Co-op both recorded 100% on bacon, with Waitrose down slightly to 93%. But a number of retailers recorded big declines, including Aldi (from 66% in January to just 20%), Asda (38% to 25%), Lidl (43% to 15%) and Tesco (48% to 42%)

On sausage, only M&S recorded 100%, with Waitrose, Lidl and Aldi all above 90%. The Co-op dropped from 91% to 69%, with notable drops also at Asda (88% to 69%), Morrisons (82% to 77%) Sainsbury’s (90% to 72%) and Tesco (88% to 74%).

Labelling issue?

Despite tighter UK pig supplies, this doesn’t tally with the latest HMRC figures showing a notable drop in pork imports in January and February, or comment from the trade that EU supplies are equally short, if not shorter, and similarly priced to UK pork products.

AHDB said the changes may be attributable to shifts in labelling approach. “We have seen an increase in bacon and sausage products which are labelled as multiple or mixed origin. Products which could be from multiple countries (eg, sourced from the UK and EU) are not included in the British total as we cannot determine exact origin,” it said.                                                        

NPA reaction

NPA chief executive Lizzie Wilson welcomed the continued support by most retailers for British pork products and said it was unclear what lies behind the big drop offs in the British bacon and sausage figures within some retailers.

“Our understanding, at the moment, is that tight supplies and high prices in Europe mean imports are not as attractive as they have been. We believe that, generally, our retailers are continuing to stock healthy volumes of British products, despite the lower availability of British pigs seen throughout this year.

“It might be, as AHDB suggests, that the changes are due to a shift in labelling policy in some retailers, to try to fulfil volumes by balancing supply . But that, in itself, is a concern as it is really important that country of origin is clearly demarked in our retailers in order to avoid confusion and to enable consumers to support our hard-working British pig producers.”