While the fight may not be on the order of David and Goliath, the little guy just won a round in the competition for market share in the retail beef trade. Nielsen Homescan reports that independent butchers are gaining on their rivals in the supermarkets according to the last published national monthly retail survey. For four straight months, butchers have drawn more trade away from the two largest supermarket conglomerates, Woolworths and Coles. Prior to these gains, independent meat cutters in Australia were struggling against a price war between the two chains, and against the emergence of new supermarket retailers.

Nielsen Homescan is a committee of 10,000 households from all over Australia. Each member records purchases—packaged and fresh—by means of an electronic device. The member households are classified by age, region and family size, and recruited online using random sampling. Employees of retail businesses and market research firms are screened out of each sample.

The survey of the rolling quarter ending on December 27th of last year revealed that independent butchers constituted 21.7 percent of all national retail beef sales. This represents a 1.5 pc increase of the overall share since August. These figures are particularly significant since Woolworths registered a share of 32.5 pc for the same rolling quarter—a drop of 0.7 pc from the month before, and a precipitous drop of 1.9 pc from its July peak. Meanwhile, Coles lost 0.1 pc from the prior month—coming in at 24.8 pc— although its numbers have been steadily rising over the previous four months.

Among the up and coming smaller retailers, IGA (Independent Grocers Association, a confederation of individually held stores) climbed to 8.8 pc after falling from its high of 10 pc in the previous year. On its heels were Aldi supermarkets with a share of 8.2 pc. Considering the fact that Aldi garnered 6.8 percent 12 months before, and is opening new outlets rapidly, it may very well overtake IGA’s percentage soon. Little change was demonstrated in other retail categories.

The gain by independent butchers takes place against the backdrop of a jump in fresh meat value over the previous year. Nielsen determined that the value of beef, pork, lamb, chicken and seafood increased by 6.1 pc. This reflected a rise in consumer spending of 5.3 pc per buyer as well as larger spend per occasion outlays—4.7 pc year-on-year. Broken down by commodity, lamb actually decreased in value while chicken only made slight gains. However, pork value made a dramatic stride of 15.5 pc, perhaps the driving factor in the increase in value of fresh meat. Nielsen measures value as the $/kg prices reflected in survey participant shopping baskets. Beef was recorded at $10.40/kg as of the rolling quarter ending December 27th.

Representing 34.8 percent by value of all meat sales for the rolling quarter ending in December, beef continues to sell well against competing proteins despite a slight drop from the previous month. Its success is credited to higher cattle slaughter rates and lower prices resulting from the 2015 drought.