China is the buzzword here in Naas this morning with almost every presenter so far referring to the opening of the Chinese market to Irish beef as being one of the big positives of meat markets as we enter 2023.

Speaking from a hotpot restaurant in China, Bord Bia’s Conor O'Sullivan said “The Chinese market offers a huge opportunity to increase carcase vale through the marketing of lower-value cuts which may not be in as much demand in other countries.”

He did express concern around billions of people attending Chinese new year celebrations in the next few weeks and the impact that that could have on COVID-19 cases.

“We are expecting a second wave of COVID-19 cases in February and that could temper demand for a few weeks but we are expecting more normal trading conditions from the second half of the year onwards.”

Speaking on the Chinese market, Gira’s Rupert Claxton said: “We are not there yet when it comes to full capacity in China. Restaurants are still operating at half capacity and we won’t see a full return to normal trading conditions until the second half of 2023.”

I can’t stress the importance of having all paperwork correct for the Chinese market

Also commenting on Chinese access, Sinead McPhilips said: “We are aware that the industry is fully prepared for Chinese access and we are also aware of various processors running 'China Days' for production during the time we were locked out of the market.

“I can’t stress the importance of having all paperwork correct for the Chinese market. Everything has to be right and they will be very strict on that.”

Some very interesting analysis was presented by Bord Bia’s Grace Binchy and Danny Bowles.

Consumer spending on meat products is trading downwards, with chicken being the only exception in the last few months.

Consumers perceive chicken to be more versatile in terms of household usage, with some meats such as lamb trading down 18% in the last few months.

They outlined some interesting analysis in relation to a changing consumer landscape in 2022 and 2023.

More price-conscious consumers are spending more time shopping around with 51% of Irish consumers shopping around in multiple stores in 2022 to get better value.

There has been a big shift away from eating out in restaurants in recent months.

There was a post-COVID-19 bounce but this has fallen back with 70% of Irish consumers eating out less in restaurants in recent months.

Price is the main factor here affecting eating out.

Brand awareness

In terms of brand awareness, 70% is a good figure in terms of industry standards and the four key markets of the UK, France and Germany are all above 65% with the UK coming in with the highest figure of 74%. This brand awareness is also being converted very quickly into actual purchases of product.

The brand awareness figure is of huge importance in terms of rolling out a PGI for beef, which will hopefully happen in 2023. The Italian market is the likely target of an initial PGI push in 2023.