Forget the UK’s reduced appetite for lamb in recent years, latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel point to a record year for the sector with consumers spending £652m on sheep meat – up a massive 10.8% on the year.

Retail sales were particularly well up on both 2018 and 2019, over the festive period, with data for the four-week period to December 27, 2020 revealing sales improved 14% on both years at £68m, and with an extra 14.6% people buying lamb.

Sales of smaller cuts, ideal for meals for smaller gatherings in lockdown, led the surge in demand. According to the Kantar figures, spending on lamb chops in December was up by more than 37% on 2019, with good demand for steaks as well as leg roasting joints.

Total sales are well up on the year despite a poor Easter too when fewer gatherings were possible as a result of the first lockdown. The increase in sales therefore reflects the much improved retail demand throughout the remainder of the year.

The growth of lamb sales was particularly strong at high street butchers. Independent retailers accounted for 12.1% of total lamb purchases in 2020, as opposed to 9.9% in 2019, with spending up 35.3% on the year to £79m.

Kantar data also reveals that groups of people who weren’t previously in the habit of eating lamb were discovering the meat for the first time.

Younger shoppers, families with children and larger households all accounted for a higher proportion of lamb purchases than in previous years.