July 22, 2011


Australian beef sales pick up after export scandal



Australia's local beef sales have improved following ABC's Four Corners programme exposing cattle mistreatment in Indonesian abattoirs.


Beef sales in Australia's number one supermarket chain, Woolworths, took a hit following last month's scandal but were now back on track, Woolworths fresh food general manager Pat McEntee said.


"The first week (after the story broke) didn't affect us, but weeks two, three and four were pretty tough. Now beef sales are back to where they were,'' McEntee said.


But public perception regarding the quality of Australian beef was still a major concern for retailers and producers, he said. "It's important we put back in front of people the quality of Australian beef.''


Too often, consumers assumed fresh food had been frozen and red meat was imported, he said.


"The number of Australian consumers that think our beef and lamb is imported (Woolworths sell only Australian grown red meat) is amazing. Maybe it's rubbed off from the pork industry and the many smallgoods made from imported ingredients, but we have to get back in the front of consumers' minds that our beef is 100% Australian grown and fresh.''


Quality, choice, the overall shopping experience, health aspects and value were the marketing fronts Woolworths would continue to work on, he said.


Last year, Woolworths permanently reduced the shelf price of all of its beef cuts 10-21%.


"And since then we've seen beef (sale) volumes grow,'' McEntee said.


This was despite hot competition from other proteins, including Australia's fastest growing protein, chicken, he said.


Growth in pre-prepared meals and the food sector was also providing competition.


"Each year, US$26 billion worth of product (beef and veal) is eaten outside the home; some of this is takeaway, but US$13 billion is in pubs, clubs and restaurants.''


This meant retailers had to keep finding new ways of getting beef into Australian households, he said.


Despite retail conditions remaining relatively flat over the past 12 months, Woolworths had posted a 1.3% rise to claim 28.8% of the red meat market, he said .

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