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Ready meal sales fall after horsegate scandal

By Rick Pendrous , 08-Apr-2013
Last updated on 08-Apr-2013 at 13:59 GMT

Kerry Foods launched its first ever consumer advertising campaign for Bisto frozen ready meals designed to reassure consumers about their provenance
Kerry Foods launched its first ever consumer advertising campaign for Bisto frozen ready meals designed to reassure consumers about their provenance

Demand for ready meals in Britain is suffering the fallout from the horsemeat scandal, which has put consumers off buying processed meat products.

The latest figures from market research group Symphony IRI Group reported that a “slowdown in the spectacular growth trend of ready meals has been driven by rising prices and cash-strapped shoppers exacerbated by the horsemeat scandal”.

Britain’s ready meals market is valued at about £2bn and an earlier report from Symphony in February stated that chilled ready meals had been the fastest growing category in grocery in 2012, with an increase in value sales over the previous year of 12%.

Frozen food sales were down 13%

According to the latest figures, the total market was down 5% in value year-on-year and this corresponded with the horsemeat scandal. Frozen food sales were down 13% and chilled down 3%.

These market changes caused analysts Clive Black and Darren Shirley from Shore Capital to question whether it was a temporary blip or whether consumer attitudes to prepared foods were permanently changing as a result of the revelations about adulterated products and adverse publicity about processed foods.

While the analysts suggested that the DNA testing regimes put in place by the food supply chain to check the authenticity of meat content might go some way to restore consumer confidence, they added: “While this may be the case, we do harbour concerns here that something a little more meaningful has taken place.”

Provenance of its ready meals

Last month Kerry Foods launched its first ever consumer advertising campaign for Bisto frozen ready meals and announced plans for two new pasta meals. The moves were designed to reassure consumers about the provenance of its ready meals and the new launches “made from 100% minced beef from trusted sources”.

Meanwhile, Food Manufacture is staging a free, one-hour webinar on the lessons to be learned from the horsemeat crisis, in association with law firm DWF. 

The webinar, which will take place at 11am on Thursday May 16, will explain how food businesses can protect themselves against similar food contamination scandals.

Taking part will be Andrew Rhodes, director of operations at the Food Standards Agency, Professor Tony Hines, head of food security and crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research, and Hilary Ross, partner with DWF.

To book your place at this free, one-hour webinar, or to put a question to our expert panel, please email michael.stones@wrbm.com .

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