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2021 MLA global market snapshots released

25 November 2021

MLA has released a suite of new market snapshots covering 14 key global markets for beef and sheepmeat.

The snapshots provide a comprehensive overview of topline, up-to-date insights into market dynamics that are being leveraged to drive demand and consumer preference for Australian beef and sheepmeat. They focus on current trends in consumer behaviour and the retail and foodservice channels, the competitive landscape, and market shifts as the world emerges from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to access these new market snapshots.

Key highlights

Consumers and red meat consumption
  • Overall, demand for red meat continues to grow, driven by stable demand from established markets and fast-growing per capita consumption in emerging markets such as Greater China, South-East Asia and MENA on the back of expanding affluent populations and growing popularity of beef and sheepmeat for in-home and out-of-home occasions. In some markets with less familiarity with sheepmeat and lower beef consumption, an increased desire for greater protein variety, cuisines, cooking methods and ingredients has expanded interest and trialling of red meat, especially sheepmeat. This is particularly strong in markets such as China, South Korea and some South-East Asian countries.

  • Consumers across many markets perceive beef as having many strengths, with superiority one of its strongest advantages over competitor proteins. This association supports the premiums of beef, given it is typically consumed less in terms of volume and frequency compared to chicken, pork and fish in many global markets.

  • Australian beef is well-positioned in global markets, typically with high awareness and favoured by consumers for its quality, safety, taste and nutritional credentials. Australian beef is seen as a premium product in many emerging markets. While facing strong competition for premiums with local beef in established markets such as Japan, Korea and the US, Australian beef is still favoured by many consumers for its consistently high quality standards, safety and good-for-health benefits.

  • Health has been a bigger concern for global consumers since the pandemic. Increased health consciousness and interest in illness prevention have impacted on red meat purchasing decisions. Consumers have had higher demand for health and nutrition benefits of meat as they have sought to maximise their health and immunity with good food and balanced diets, thereby achieving a greater sense of control and comfort in uncertain times.

  • Shoppers and diners placed a higher priority on meat hygiene and safety as supply chain disruptions shook consumer confidence in many markets, exacerbated by panic buying and sea and air freight disruptions on product availability. Consumers in markets that are highly dependent on imports such as MENA, South-East Asia, China and Korea also placed a greater focus on country of origin alongside product safety.

  • Greater prioritisation of health and safety by consumers presents opportunities for Australian red meat to grow brand equity as a leading supplier of safe, trusted red meat product. Meat faces some health challenges as a category, especially red meat. Consumers globally are considering limiting consumption of red meat for health reasons. While this represents a challenge, it is also an opportunity to reinforce the health and nutritional benefits of red meat as an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet, supporting consumers to feel confident in their red meat consumption.

  • The global market is seeing a rapid rise in consumer needs for convenience, underpinned by changing lifestyles and evolution in technology. Consumers increasingly look for food options that help make their lives easier. Many different types of convenience offerings have been introduced to the marketplace, spanning ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook packaged products to food-on-the-go and ready-meal-kits. The convenience market is expected to continue to expand, with new product and service concepts emerging.

  • Providing consumers confidence, convenience and enjoyable shopping, cooking and eating experiences with Australian red meat remain vital to growing consumption and building brand equity for Australian red meat in the global market.
Retail
  • With a high proportion of Australian red meat exports being utilised in the foodservice sector pre-pandemic, overall demand weakened from 2020, despite some utilisation offset by increased retail sales. As a consequence, the pandemic has offered new export opportunities for Australian red meat in retail. In markets such as China and Vietnam, the impact of ASF has further accelerated the penetration of red meat in retail due to the pork shortage, particularly driven by affluent consumers.

  • The pandemic has resulted in an increased uptake of online grocery shopping, including for meat, compared to pre-pandemic levels, especially in emerging markets where consumers traditionally prefer to inspect meat before buying. The use of online grocery shopping particularly increased during the peak of the COVID-19 spread as a means for consumers to avoid public places, but this sentiment later shifted to ‘convenience’.

  • The pandemic has also driven a net increase in meat shopping at modern retail over traditional channels such as wet markets, slaughter houses and livestock markets compared to pre-pandemic due to restriction measures and increased health concerns, particularly impacting markets such as China, South-East Asia and MENA.

  • There has been a growing demand for meat products that offer faster, easier meal solutions for cooking at home, with more variety but without requiring too much compromise on health and nutrition. Hence, markets are seeing greater demand for meal kits, meal box services, grab-and-go cooked products and pre-prepared meat items.
Foodservice
  • Markets with significant tourism sectors, such as Thailand, the UAE, Hong Kong and the UK, have particularly suffered from the shutdown of foodservice, with hospitality foodservice a large proportion of the sector.

  • Takeaway and meal delivery have partly offset revenue losses for dine-in services, especially amon quick service restaurants and the casual dining sector. Higher-end foodservice players around the world have been more severely impacted, but have also expanded their core dine-in services to takeaway or home delivery, along with other innovations to stay afloat. They are targeting local affluent consumers with strong desires for fine dining experiences.

  • With markets around the globe beginning to re-open their economies as vaccination rates rise, recovery in the global foodservice sector is underway. However, faster recovery is expected for quiock service restaurants and casual dining outlets, with higher end full service restaurants facing a longer recovery journey.
Competitive landscape
  • Australia has a relatively strong competitive position in a majority of global markets, supported by strong trade relationships and agility in response to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. This has supported Australia to maintain its position as a reliable and resilient supplier of consistently high quality red meat to global customers and consumers.

  • Tight supply and higher prices of Australian red meat since 2020 have resulted in a temporarily reduced market presence and share, creating opportunities for competitors to fill the gap. This has been the case for US beef in Japan, Korea and China; for Paraguayan and US beef in Taiwan; for Brazilian beef in South-East Asia and for sheepmeat from Sub-Saharan African countries in MENA.

  • For some markets, such as in MENA, where the pandemic has highlighted the risks of high import-dependence, there are indications that future policies may promote diversification of suppliers and increased domestic production.

  • The medium-term outlook for import demand is positive in both established and emerging markets as consumer confidence, foodservice and Australian production recover.