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Return to ‘Normal’ Sees Long-term UK Frozen Food Sales Growth Slow

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Retail frozen food sales remain buoyant in the United Kingdom despite consumers returning to shopping habits in place prior to government-imposed coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, according to the latest 52-week Kantar data from the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF).

The figures to September 5 show that frozen sales are nearly £900 million higher than the 52 weeks ended in June 2019, with an additional 217 tons of volume since the pre-pandemic period.

However, with the reopening of hospitality venues and shoppers reverting to smaller basket sizes and more frequent shopping trips, frozen sales have declined. This trends is reflected across the whole of the grocery market.

Over the 12-week period that ended on  September 5 total grocery sales were down 2.7%, fresh and chilled food purchases were off by 1.2%, and frozen sales fell by 3.6%. Across the nine frozen categories monitored seven remain in value and volume growth territory, with meat and poultry and frozen vegetables posting small value declines.

“The latest figures are to be expected, as consumers start to eat out again and make more regular shopping trips. However, I suspect current supply chain issues and consumers stocking up for Christmas earlier than normal will lead to an uplift in frozen sales in November and December,” said Richard Harrow, chief executive of the BFFF.

Since 2019 the frozen category has seen value growth of +14.2% and volume growth of +10.4%., according to Kantar. When compared to 2019 value growth of frozen is ahead of both total grocery (+13.1%) and fresh and chilled (+12.4) so the outlook remains positive.

“Whilst the market is returning to normal, we are still seeing growth of shopper numbers across the total category and frozen has attracted over 400,000 more shoppers than in 2019. This latest Kantar data also shows that across six categories we have retained on average 50% of the additional shoppers gained in 2020,” commented Harrow.

He added: “Frozen has always been recognized as a great value option, but value is now combined with innovation as companies work to develop high-quality frozen free-from products, sustainable packaging solutions and plant-based meals. We know people across all demographics are increasingly seeking out healthy and sustainable products, so options on offer in the frozen aisle will continue to attract new consumers.”