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Australian retail and foodservice during COVID-19

11 May 2020

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With most markets globally impacted or severely disrupted by COVID-19, the Australian domestic market is no different, particularly the retail and foodservice sectors. Scott Cameron is MLA’s National Customer Development Manager working across Australia’s domestic markets. Here he talks through the current trends and how MLA is supporting foodservice and retail through COVID-19.

What’s the latest on beef in the domestic market?

It’s a really positive story for beef. The last twelve weeks up to the 19th of April show that, excluding foodservice, domestic market growth has been over 20%. This has been driven by an increase in household penetration, with 130,000 new households purchasing beef over this period, and also spending more on their purchases.

The butchers’ channel has also grown by about 39%, which represents a huge increase on last year.

In terms of the product sales that are driving this growth, mince has been a big contributor as people stocked up in the initial response to COVID-19, but more recently we’ve also seen a spike in steak sales. This could be due to people enjoying the weather and using their barbeques a bit more.

And what’s the latest on lamb?

Lamb’s another good story as we’ve seen about a 12% growth on this time last year. There’s actually been less people buying into lamb, but the people that are buying are spending more and that’s been where we’ve seen the increase.

Similarly to beef, butcher channels are also growing at about twice the national average for lamb sales at around 23% and are seeing a big increase in average spending, which is another positive.

In terms of cuts, lamb legs and lamb cutlets are the key products driving these sales.

The foodservice sector has been facing a lot of challenges with the current situation. What’s MLA and your team doing to support this sector?

We’ve been really busy with a range of marketing activities. For example, last week, we filmed a video series called ‘Red Meat over Fire’ in the backyard of our corporate chef, Sam Burke.

We’re going to use this footage across our social media and digital channels as a learning tool for foodservices to produce these dishes when they go back to full-time service.

We also filmed each red meat dish in a meal kit format, as we’ve seen the foodservice industry pivot towards offering these to compliment their revenue. We’re hoping that they can utilise this media to inspire their own meal kit menus.


Behind the scenes as MLA’s Product & Business Development Manager and Corporate Chef, Sam Burke, films the new Red Meat over Fire video series.

You’ve referenced that retail is going from strength to strength at the moment. What’s MLA doing in terms of its programs in retail?

We’re currently taking the opportunity to pivot into a new ‘Healthy Meals’ program and away from our Olympics programming, as the Tokyo Games has been postponed.

To achieve this, we’ve been doing a lot of magazine advertising on recipe inspiration for secondary cuts, and lots of digital advertising to promote beef’s role in a healthy diet.

We’re also taking the time to research and test new ideas. An example of this is that we’re trialling QR codes on red meat products that consumers can use their phone to scan and be given a downloadable recipe.

Lastly, is it fact or fiction that despite increases in sales, there’s actually less traffic going through large retail at the moment?

People’s shopping habits have changed quite significantly, as they move away from top-up shopping to stock-up shopping, which means that they’re frequenting stores less but still spending more.

This isn’t the case for butchers though, as they are seeing more buyers coming in, buying products more frequently, and spending more, so it’s a brilliant story there.