Christmas and new year celebrations were greatly curtailed because of the pandemic and yet the escalation of cases has resulted in the most stringent lockdown measures in Britain since last March and it is similar in Ireland.
With people's opportunity to socialise restricted, it meant a greater focus on food consumption at home and, as a result UK retailers had what was described as a good Christmas, with sales up by 8.6%.
The continued lockdown for the next several weeks in both Ireland and Britain means business is likely to continue above what we might expect, especially in the food category.
They will remain open in all circumstances and, with people working from home where possible and no hospitality open beyond takeaways, the demand for food purchased in the retail sector is likely to remain strong for at least the first quarter of 2021.
Beef consumption data
The most recent 12-week consumption data to 29 November collected by Kantar and published by the AHDB, the English levy body, shows that household spend on beef had increased by 11% over the period with the volume of purchases increased by 7.5%.
It was also a good 12-week period for lamb consumption, where spend increased by 13.2% and volume increased by 4.5%.
Irish beef performed strongly in its share of the retail market in Britain, as assessed by the AHDB survey, on retail shelves.
In the November survey, Asda was carrying 65% British beef meaning, that 35% of its offering was Irish, an increase of 12% for Irish since the previous survey in August 2020.
Sainsbury’s had 82% British in November compared with 88% in August, meaning that the Irish share was 18%, and Tesco had moved from 76% British in August to 77% in November, meaning 23% of Tesco beef in British supermarkets was Irish.
There had been concern that there would be an overhang of stock in chills in the new year because of the build-up ahead of Brexit taking effect on 1 January.
However, reports from the trade suggest that strong demand from the supermarket sector continues and this is reflected in sustained cattle prices, with chills cleared out over recent days.
There is no doubt that the absence of the catering and hospitality sector has an impact, but this is felt most by non-British and Irish beef suppliers.
Of the top 10 UK supermarkets, seven take only British beef but the top three take a British and Irish mix, with British being preferred with Irish as the top-up supply.
As retail demand grows in the UK, so too does the demand for Irish top-up supplies.
That suggests that with society locked down in the UK, retail demand will continue strong and, in the process, demand for Irish beef will also be strong.
Similarly with the burger chains, they also source British and Irish and as they can still function under strict rules, they will also remain in the market.