Label change to boost chilled foods sales

Related tags Chilled foods Tesco Food safety Asda Sainsbury

Chilled foods look set to receive a further boost in sales following Sainsbury's decision last month to change its labelling to advise shoppers they can freeze many foods right up until the 'use by' date. Sainsbury's move is likely to be followed by other retailers. If so, it would make chilled foods even more attractive to waste-conscious, cash-strapped shoppers.

News is expected over the next week or so that chilled food sales have grown by over 6% over 2011. While many are consumed or frozen on the day of purchase, making shoppers more aware they can be frozen right up to the 'use by' date could drive further sales.

Kaarin Goodburn, secretary general of the Chilled Foods Association, described Sainsbury's announcement as "a natural development because it clarifies the current meaning of labelling"​.

Marks & Spencer is planning to make similar changes to its labelling, but as yet it is not known whether Tesco, Asda and Morrisons will follow suit.

However, the Food Standards Agency's chief scientist Andrew Wadge wrote on his recent blog: "Our guidelines have always stated that it's fine to freeze food after the day of purchase as long as it has been correctly stored. We hope other supermarkets start highlighting this to their customers."

"If Tesco did it, that would be quite something in terms of a sea change,"​ said Goodburn. "We just need to ensure that it is rolled out with new product development (NPD) so that it is not a huge hit on labelling costs."

While co-ordinating labelling changes with NPD cycles would help to reduce the cost burden on suppliers, Goodburn noted that manufacturers were already faced with the costs of changing their labelling over the next two to three years to comply with the EU's new Food Information Regulation.

Sainsbury worked with the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) on this initiative. Beth Hart, Sainsbury's head of product technology for fresh and frozen, said: "The 'freeze on the day of purchase' advice needs to be changed as there is no food safety reason why it cannot be frozen at any point prior to the use by date."

WRAP estimates Sainsbury's new labelling alone will prevent £2bn of food a year from being wasted.

Related topics Chilled foods

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