There is no denying that the recession impacted across the board - the meat and poultry industry was no exception. Having been faced with increased global costs and a noticeable difference in consumer’s buying habits throughout the recession, the industry is sure to feel the effects of the financial hangover for a little while longer.
However, with the recession ‘officially’ over and a new Government in power there is a quiet optimism growing amongst the sector, especially following a welcome boost in returns at the start of the year.
The British Retail Consortium announced a rise in January’s food sales by 1.2 per cent on 2008, and thanked the cold weather for the increase, as the nation stocked up on food.
The eating out market has also grown at rate of 7.5 per cent and is currently worth £42bn. Although the recession saw a two per cent decline in those eating out during 2009, the trend of dining out is expected to bounce back as the economy returns to growth. This growth is being driven by a variety of factors, including an increase in consumer confidence teamed with affordability of meals.
There has been particular standout growth in the poultry segment, with chicken performing especially well across all sectors of the food industry – from manufacturing, retail and convenience through to catering, takeaways and other foodservice outlets. Although many consumers continue to watch the purse strings, they still want a healthy, filling meal and chicken is considered an inexpensive, healthy protein, suitable for children, teens and adults.
There has been a noticeable increase in consumer demand for chicken, heightened by the popularity of chicken restaurants, such as Peri-Peri and Southern Fried Chicken outlets. Chicken remains popular due to its versatility – it can be served in a variety of formats, either in buckets or cups for eating on-the-go or to take home, as part of a starter or sharing platter, or main meal with chips, which gives food outlets the option to boost profits and give diners a wider choice.
Chicken continues to be a popular component of lunch and dinner options due to its low cost, nutritional benefits and versatility. As the economy is still a little unsteady, price points are still very much at the fore, as is the demand to eat a balanced diet. This makes chicken the perfect food that can be added to a wide variety of dishes at little cost to food outlets.
In evidence of this, Rectory Foods’ most successful year to date was 2009. It increased its staff base by 40 per cent, saw an uplift in new customers and turnover reached an all-time high of £26 million. This has prompted Rectory Foods becoming one of the leading operations of its type in the European Union.
All this occurred, despite rumours that more job losses should be expected in the poultry industry during 2010. A report by industry analysts, Plimsoll, predicts ‘more job losses and consolidations’ with up to 9000 jobs expected to go if poultry companies are to remain profitable and competitive. It claims that ‘over £330m worth of profit has been wiped from the market in the last year’ meaning many employers have no choice but to make cutbacks.
But this is not the case for Rectory Foods. In response to the increased industry demand it has continued to innovate, introducing a new range of frozen chicken products for the foodservice and retail sectors under its Hot Chicken Company (HCC) brand, and created a new division: Frozen Vegetables and Ingredients. Poultry’s healthy image and versatility have helped to boost volume sales and as its product portfolio expands the company has found it can apply its knowledge, expertise and experience to other food sectors.
Charles Woolley is founder and CEO of Rectory Foods, global supplier of quality poultry and food ingredients. As well as the Hot Chicken Company range, Rectory Foods supplies fresh, frozen, cooked and prepared poultry, frozen fruit and vegetables, as well as other food ingredients from seeds and pulses to herbs and garlic. Established in 1996, the company is headquartered in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, with operations throughout the UK, Europe and Asia.
For further information, visit www.rectoryfoods.com