Year-end sales data has arrived and 2018 was an excellent year for beef at retail. Compared to 2017, monthly beef dollar sales were higher throughout the year and total beef sales increased 6.0% nationwide, on sharply higher volumes accompanied by stronger prices (see chart).1As noted previously, these positive factors combined to drive consumer demand for beef higher.2
Diving into the details, the versatility, convenience and affordability of Ground Beef resonated particularly well with consumers in 2018, as dollar sales rose 9%. Higher volumes accounted for 7.5% of this growth whereas prices were 1.3% stronger. These increases were more robust in the first half of the year (+12.2% in dollars), as higher prices from January-June (+3.5%) gave way to slight declines in the back half of the year (-0.8%). By grind type, 70-77% lean sales increased over $600 million to $4.0 billion, while Ground Brisket captured some interest (off a tiny base) with a 72.6% jump to $10.2 million.
Middle meat steak sales were plentiful in 2018, as well. Sales increased 3.7% on both higher volumes and price. Pound increases were sharpest in July and August (+10.4%) when retailers offered consumer-friendly pricing (-2.0%) while grilling season was in full-swing. Steak sales finished the year strong with November-December revenues up 5.0%. By cut, shoppers purchased 13.9% more pounds of T-Bone Steak, 9.5% more pounds of bone-in Strip Steak, and 0.4% fewer pounds of Top Sirloin Steak. Combined with prices, these quantity changes illustrate strong consumer demand for higher-end cuts.
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