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There’s no time quite like Christmas to promote game to the public. British Game Assurance’s CEO Liam Stokes explains why we need to make the most of this month’s extraordinary uplift in interest
Game finds its way onto more kitchen tables at Christmas than at any other time of year. In 2021, more people than ever will be putting game on the festive menu, as supermarkets across the country lean into the trend away from turkey and customers discover the delights of pheasant and partridge.
The December spike in game consumption that we see in our data is actually quite extraordinary. Christmas is such fertile ground for game sales to flourish - the shooting season is in full swing, game is plentiful and visible. People are thinking about how they can treat themselves and their guests, and how they can do something ‘a bit different’. They are feeling adventurous, and we know the average consumer sees game as something for a special occasion. So many traditional game recipes are hearty and wintry, and so many Christmas cookbooks will have a place for game.
This presents a twin challenge to those of us committed to growing the consumption of game. We need to get people thinking about game differently, and using game all year round, but that is tomorrow’s problem. Right now, our job is to capitalise on these perfect growing conditions for game sales and maximise the Christmas opportunity.
Stocking game in supermarkets is essential Visibility is the key to achieving that goal. There is no doubt that Christmas is the one time of year that some people choose to visit their local butcher, as many folks seem to invest more thought in the provenance of their Christmas turkey than they give to their humble chickens on the other 364 days a year. But these festive butcher shoppers probably already have half an eye on the game counter. The room for growth, in my opinion, is in the supermarkets.
In 2021 Statista's Global Consumer Survey found a whopping 87 percent of UK consumers regularly bought their food in supermarkets. Just take a trip to your friendly local major multiple right now to see if this trend holds true at Christmas. This is the limiting factor on any attempts to promote game; no matter how you sow the seed in someone’s mind, they need to be able to find the pheasant they need on the shelves where they shop.
This is why so much of our work at the BGA has focussed on getting game into supermarkets, especially at Christmas. For the first time ever, Morrisons have taken six lines of game this season. Sainsbury’s stocked BGA game for the first time last year and sold half a million birds, and so this season they have added three new lines for Christmas. The retailers you might expect, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Booths, are being joined by perhaps more surprising outlets like Lidl, in offering increasing quantities of festive game.
Working with supermarkets comes at a cost, in terms of pricing and in terms of procurement demands, as any farmer can tell you. But it is a deal we must do if we are to meet our Christmas shoppers where they are.
Our festive wish, and our new year’s task, is for those three-gamebird roasts on the Boxing Day table to result in new game consumers seeking out interesting wild meat throughout 2022.
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