Eating the week away: what drives evening meal choices?

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The number of meat-free evening meal occasions during the week is growing as consumers increasingly look to reduce the amount of meat in their diet. Health is given as the primary reason behind this. Compared to last year, the number of meal occasions featuring red meat is declining both during the week (-1.2%) and at the weekend (-0.7%).

Unsurprisingly, Sunday is the most popular day for red meat occasions given the importance of the classic Sunday roast. Red meat loses importance in evening meals as the week progresses, perhaps due to households using up left-overs from the weekend roast at the beginning of the week. Friday features red meat the least and the British tradition of ‘fish on Friday’ is a key factor influencing this.

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Takeaways and convenience meals feature prominently on Fridays and Saturdays, when the need for a treat or a break from cooking is more important. Friday is the day where the least time is spent preparing an evening meal. Beef takes the least time to prepare, while pork takes the longest. The challenge for pork and also lamb is to feature in more dishes and to provide inspiration for easy-to-prepare, healthy and tasty meals, especially during the week. This will be key to challenging the dominance of chicken midweek, and is the focus of the latest AHDB pork marketing campaign.

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Practicality is more important at the start of the week, suggesting consumers want easy to prepare and clear-up meals during this time. Beef is seen as the most practical red meat, likely influenced by mince, while pork is the least. Pies/pastries and sausages also tend to over index during the week, with ease of cooking a likely factor. For pork, the most popular meals are those featuring chops, followed by roast dinners, with chops over indexing during the week.

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With health increasing in importance as a decision factor for meal choice, the challenge for red meat will be to retain its popularity when competing against against vegetarian options and poultry; which are perceived as healthier and more versatile. Quick and easy weekday meals, which are also healthy and tasty, will be key to ensuring red meat remains a relevant choice for consumers. As such, the current pork medallions campaign addresses a need to promote cuts that are quicker to cook and can be featured in more dish-based meals. However, the need to drive more red meat evening meal occasions during Friday and Saturday will also be a key to the fortunes of the industry.

To read more about evening meal choices, click here.

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Sukhvinder Gill, Consumer Insight Manager

sukhvinder.gill@ahdb.org.uk024 7647 8672