Turkey producers shift marketing focus to tackle slumping sales

RED DEER — Turkey farmers want Canadians to know the birds are not just for Christmas.

Think Turkey is a new five-year campaign to boost lagging sales.

Per capita consumption of turkey is dropping to about 4.2 kilograms per person, a worrisome trend for the sector, said Darren Ference, president of Turkey Farmers of Canada.

“The bottom line is we need to increase turkey consumption,” he said at the Alberta Turkey Farmers annual meeting in Red Deer Feb. 26.

Consumption of whole turkeys has dropped 18 percent since 2007, but further processed turkey has increased 20 percent to 14.5 million kg.

A two-part allocation for whole birds and further processing did not foresee the shift in consumer tastes. The policy is under review.

“When the policy was developed no one could have anticipated the rate at which consumer demand for whole birds at festive times — Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas — would decline,” he said.

The Canadian population is changing. Younger cooks may not know how to prepare a whole turkey or newcomers to the country may not normally eat it.

The campaign will hit broadcast media, social media and billboards to promote turkey as a Canadian raised product that was humanely raised and is safe to eat.

Consumer surveys show 85 percent of Canadians want domestically produced food so the campaign will include logos indicating the turkey is Canadian raised.

Turkey Farmers of Canada reported 2017 production of turkey weighing less than nine kg was 71.1 million kg, a decrease of 5.9 million kg. Production of turkey more than nine kg was 100.6 million kg, a decrease of 5.8 million kg from 2016, but an increase of 11.1 million kg from three years earlier.

Sales of cut-up and further processed turkey products at retail increased from 10.1 million kg in 1990 to 14.4 million kg in 2017. The main ingredient in many of these products is breast meat, derived from heavier turkeys. The value of these products at retail increased from $77 million in 1990 to $207 million in 2017.

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