THE dairy retail market saw a significant seasonal uplift in the build up to Christmas compared with last year.

According to Kantar Worldpanel, the category was worth £2.4 billion in the 12 weeks to December 31, 2017, seven percent more than a year earlier. Although this was partially a reflection of higher prices, volume growth on 2016 levels was also recorded for most products.

Cheese, an essential at Christmas, saw sales reach £714 million in the 12-week period, driven by strong sales of cheddar. Higher shelf prices were the main factor behind the uplift in sales value. Despite the higher prices, consumers were still attracted to the category, and over a third (36 per cent) of the value growth of cheese was from higher sales.

Milk sales told a similar story, with 36 percent of the value uplift coming from higher volume sales. In the 12-week period to December 31, milk was purchased by 98 percent of households, up on the year, who also purchased more frequently, despite higher prices. In total, milk sales reached a value of £766m, five percent higher than a year earlier.

Butter sales showed positive gains in value, to be worth almost £225m over the period, although volumes dropped. The average price of butter stood at £6.01/kg in the 12 weeks ending December 31, up from £4.56/kg at the same time in 2016. These higher prices contributed entirely to value gains and compensated for drop in volumes.

Market round-up

United Auctions sold 369 store heifers at Stirling on Wednesday to average 216p (+5.5p on the week) and 498 store, beef-bred bullocks to level at 221.9p (-6.7p). Fifty-three store, B&W bullocks averaged 155.6p (+10.1p) and five store bulls levelled at 202p (-20.9p).

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold 10 prime heifers in Dumfries on Wednesday to a top of 230p per kg and an average of 183p, while three prime bullocks peaked at 231p and levelled at 201p.

In the rough ring 25 beef cows averaged 127p and 66 dairy levelled at 106p.

There were also 817 prime hoggs that sold to £93.50 per head and 205p per kg to average 181p (+5p on the week).

The 452 cast sheep forward saw heavy ewes sell to £136.50 for Texels and average £65, while light/export-type ewes peaked at £88.50 for Cheviots and levelled at £43.

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 1,105 prime hoggs in Newton Stewart on Wednesday to a top of £95 and 226p to average 185p (+10.4p). Included in that overall average were 228 Blackfaces that peaked at £82 and 190p to level at 175.8p.

The firm also sold 168 heavy cast ewes to £118 for Suffolks and an average of £74.39, while 157 light ewes peaked at £55 for Blackfaces and levelled at £46.79.