The World Health Organization announcement that processed meats contain carcinogens threatens the business models of many manufacturers and may even hurt retailers. Storenext figures obtained by "Globes" -- and published for the first time -- show that Israelis have hurriedly accepted the recommendation in the week after the WHO announcement.
In the last week, sales of processed meats have dropped by 27% on average. The figures look at sales volume because, in general, consumers' decisions to avoid a potentially unhealthy product are not affected by its price.
The hardest-hit category was frozen meats -- 36% -- followed by chilled products including sausages, hotdogs, and pastrami -- 31%.
The lowest drop -- which helped stabilize the average -- among the processed meats was 16.4% in frozen chicken and turkey snacks.
Within the categories, several individual products were massively hurt by the report: chilled hotdog sales dropped by 36%, hamburger sales fell 38%, and the sales of dried sausages dropped by 28%.
One shopper, Ofer Cohen, offered a parent's perspective. "Every week, we would buy two packs of pastrami and salami. The kids' sandwiches have cold cuts 3-4 times per week, in the evenings too; my daughter makes herself a toast with cold cuts around 4 times a week. Since the announcement, we haven't bought those products at all. We had no idea it was carcinogenic."
The figures represent the catastrophic potential of the WHO announcement for certain companies. Within a week, Soglowek's meat and poultry sales dropped by 30%, Tirat Zvi's fell by 28%, and Of Tov saw its sales reduced by 35%.
Tibon Veal, part of the Neto Group, estimates that it is responsible for 34% of the processed meats sold in Israel, and its sales dropped by 27%.
The firm figures, however, also include sales of non-processed meats. The sharp drop in sales for brands that sell non-processed meats may point to an over-correction from cautious consumers who are confused by the report.
At the end of the week, not a single brand managed to survive the WHO announcement without a double-digit hit to their sales.
Half of shoppers affected
The results of a phone survey conducted by Geocartography this week (Monday) for "Globes" support the confusion hypothesis. Overall, 61% of respondents said they eat processed meats while 39% claimed to abstain.
The Who announcement affected more than half of consumers, with 35% declaring they will stop or significantly reduce consumption and 20% saying they will lower the quantity they consume.
Surprisingly, 39% of respondents said they would not change their eating habits.
The survey, it should be noted, was conducted after the WHO released a follow-up announcement to avert panic, as did other officials in healthcare systems both in Israel and abroad, which contextualized the conclusions of the study.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 4, 2015
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015