Celebrity chefs boost business for traditional butchers

Date:15-03-2014 08:58:08 read:1

Celebrity chefs boost business for traditional butchers

High Street butchers' shops are thriving thanks to television chefs urging shoppers to seek out unusual cuts and expert advice on locally-sourced meat

Traditional independent butchers are highly-praised by celebrity chefs Photo: Christopher Jones

Celebrity chefs urging shoppers to try unusual cuts of locally-sourced meat have prompted a boom for traditional High Street butchers, according to a new report.

The number of independent butchers nationwide has increased by nine per cent overall, with some regions reporting rises of 32 per cent and 109 per cent, reports the Meat Trades Journal.

The growing trend for shoppers to prefer old-style butchers’ shops is due to a combination of last year’s horsemeat scandal and celebrity chefs praising the traditional butchery skills to be found in a family-run concern, it said.

Television stars such as Jamie Oliver praising the thrifty tastiness of brisket and Nigella Lawson encouraging viewers to visit their local butcher for expert advice on quality cuts have helped to boost business, it added.

Now the industry has produced an online “Idiot’s Guide to the Butcher’s Shop” to give more shoppers the confidence to visit a traditional High Street store.

"It is really welcome news that there has been this increase in the numbers of high street butchers' shops and both ourselves and the industry at large will be doing all we can to ensure that it continues," said Ed Bedington, editor of Meat Trades Journal.

"It is clear that overall the industry is in rude health. Growing numbers of shoppers recognise the quality and value of the service provided by butchers as well as the extent of their nutritional knowledge and skill, and are choosing them over other types of outlets."

The increase in the number of independent butchers' shops emerged when insurance broker, Simply Business, analysed data from more than 40,000 insurance policies on independent retail stores last year.

The South West saw the biggest increase in butchers’ shops with 109 per cent, while the North East saw an increase of 44 per cent, the North West 32 per cent and the South East 33 per cent.

London saw an increase in line with the national average of 9 per cent, but Scotland saw numbers drop 26 per cent, with decreases also reported in Wales and the Midlands.

Richard Stevenson, technical manager at the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, said that the horsemeat scandal was also likely to have had an effect on consumers.

He said he was slightly surprised by the extent of the increase, adding that the figures were "significant" as the long term trend has been numbers declining.

"The horsemeat scandal was an enormous bonus for butchers," he said. "There has been an enormous follow through, and a number of butchers have managed to hold on to those customers."

Mr Stevenson said the typical customer had also changed recently with a larger number of younger people shopping in butchers, heavily influenced by celebrity chefs and their television spin-off cookbooks.

"People have certainly said to me that butchery has got sexier, as it's been featured by a number of celebrity chefs," he said.

Last year, his federation estimated that the number of local butchers had fallen from 30,000 to just 6,000 in the last 20 years, largely due to the expansion of the giant supermarket chains..

Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association, disputed the apparent drop in the number of independent butchers in Scotland reported by Simply Business.

"According to the last figures I had from HMRC, there are a slightly shrinking number of butchers. However a number of butchers in Scotland have taken over other businesses, so those figures (based on individual businesses registered for VAT) are not an indicator as to whether businesses are closing down."

He said as far as he was aware there was no great reduction in the number of butchers' shops, adding that new shops had been opening, as well as farm shops selling fresh meat.

"The challenge is really a lack of footfall in particular areas, and the closing down of other shops which has had a knock on effect," he said.

Simply Business put much of the growth in traditional food merchants down to a growing “foodie” population of knowledgeable consumers, whose enthusiasm had been fired by celebrity chefs and their recipes.

Jason Stockwood, chief executive of Simply Business, said: "We hope these independent food and drink stores will profit from consumers turning their backs on established supermarket chains in favour of their local providers who breathe new life into community high streets. Independent businesses are vital to the ongoing growth of the UK economy and our findings reinforce this."

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