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Lockdown Lunchtimes Drive Frozen Food Sales in United Kingdom

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Fish fingers and frozen peas are flying off supermarket shelves in the UK as millions of schoolchildren, now pretty much at home 24/7 due to the coronavirus lockdown, swap school dinners for lunchtime with mum and dad, according to the latest industry figures.

Sales data from the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) and Kantar reveal that in the four weeks from February 23 to March 22 shoppers in Britain spent an extra £130 million on everything from ice cream to frozen meat and poultry as they filled up their freezers before the government-imposed lockdown began on March 23.

Total sales of frozen food jumped 28.3% in volume and 28.1% in value compared to the same four week period last year. In total UK shoppers bought over £6.4 billion worth of frozen food in the year between March 2019 and March 2020.

And the rate of sales has continued with some retailers reporting a 48% increase in the sale of fish fingers and a 68% surge in purchases of frozen peas, says the BFFF.

The Kantar figures reveal that every category of frozen food has seen a sales increase over the four-week period with purchases of frozen vegetables up 42.5% in volume, frozen meat and poultry +34.8% in volume and frozen savory food up 36.7% in volume. Ice cream and frozen confectionery sales also increased in volume by 5.4% and 7.4%, respectively.

“Our research with individual retailers has revealed they are all experiencing a surge in frozen sales,” said Richard Harrow, BFFF chief executive. “Some have reported sales of pizza up 50% and sales of frozen broccoli up 93%. The recent warm weather has also seen one supermarket chain’s sales of ice cream increase by 50%. Supply remains in good shape, although supply chains are at full stretch. Various actions such as simplified ranging have been introduced to help ensure the industry can keep products on sale as demand continues to remain high.

“Lots of shoppers are looking on our consumer website (www.freshfromthefreezer.co.uk) for information on how to defrost, how long to keep frozen food and to find out if they can refreeze food that’s been defrosted. There are also plenty of people also seeking inspiration from the recipe section.”

Harrow continued: “Whilst total sales of frozen food have been increasing in recent years, many people returning to the freezer section will be surprised by the innovation and quality of the products now available, and we hope they continue to buy frozen food in the long-term.

“However, the situation is in stark contrast to what is happening in the hospitality and catering industry where many of our members have seen their orders disappear overnight. We have called for the government support now reaching hotels, restaurants and catering companies to be shared with the wholesalers and manufacturers that supply them.”

Kantar’s 52-week ending March 22 figures also show that overall sales of frozen food were up both in terms of value (+1.7%) and volume (+1.3%). Categories that did particularly well were: Pizza, +7.9% in value and +10% in volume; Vegetables, +3.7% in value and +5.1% in volume; and Potato Products, +5.7% in value and +3.4% in volume. Frozen Fish figures were also positive at +4.6% in value and +1.6% in volume.

Meanwhile, Ice Cream and Frozen Confectionary remained strong, though both saw reduced value and volume sales compared the previous year’s figures, which benefited from an exceptionally hot summer of 2018.

About Kantar and the BFFF

Kantar is a London-headquartered evidence-based insights and consulting company. Active globally and locally in more than 90 countries, its team gathers and analyzes data to help clients understand consumer behavior and increase sales.

The BFFF the UK’s leading trade association for the frozen food sector. Its mission is to promote and protect the interests of the frozen food industry. Members cover the entire cold chain of supply. The Federation campaigns to educate, promote and inform consumers, retailers and foodservice operators about the value of frozen food.