Red meat needs to ‘move with the times’ to maintain sales in the UK, with premium sectors key for Welsh lamb, according to Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) chairman Kevin Roberts.
Speaking at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Mr Roberts said traditional roasts were still important but the industry had to ‘move with the times’.
To keep red meat relevant, HCC was aiming to promote it as a natural and convenient source of protein for healthy lifestyle and targeting younger consumers with a new online recipe selector for their smartphone.
He emphasised his belief Welsh meat could outperform the market.
“Figures published last year showed that UK-wide spending on lamb in supermarkets fell by almost 2 per cent in a 12-month period, while spending on branded Welsh Lamb was up by 5.6 per cent,” he said.
Mr Roberts said selling high-value branded cuts offered the prospect of better returns for farmers than targeting low-value sectors such as fast food and public procurement, and praised supermarkets and wholesalers which had recently committed to increased home sourcing.
However, he warned that all options in the UK market would need to be considered if trade with the EU was disrupted in 2019, particularly for the sheep industry.
“We are delighted to have secured £1.5 million in funding from Welsh Government to accelerate the work of developing new export markets,” he said.
“But if we face a sudden loss of EU trade in 2019, there is no way that can be made up overnight with exports to other countries.
“An oversupply of lamb in the domestic market will require radical measures, which will need all parts of the supply chain – from farmers to UK retailers – to work closely together.”
Canadians will now also be able to purchase Welsh lamb, after supermarket chain Lococo announced it would stock a range and undertake in-store promotions.
The retailer is headquartered at Niagara Falls and specialises in high quality fresh produce.
HCC export executive Deanna Leven said the Canadian market had ‘significant potential’ for Welsh red meat exports with interest across the country from retailers and restaurant suppliers.
“HCC’s work in Canada has involved making connections between Welsh processors, food importers, retailers and foodservice distributors, and providing assistance with branding and marketing,” she said.
“We are seeing increasing interest in Welsh Lamb, from Ontario right across to British Columbia, particularly from retailers and restaurant suppliers who are looking for high quality meat.”
Pearse Dolan, president of Toronto-based food importers and distributors Dolan Foods, said, “We are delighted to have secured this new business for Welsh Lamb.
“The initial in-store promotions have been very well-received. We look forward to working with Lococo’s and HCC to bring the superb taste of fresh Welsh Lamb to more Canadian consumers, with several tastings planned in December.”