According to Young, the frozen food market was growing at around 6% last year “before the criminals infiltrated the supply chain”, when horsemeat masquerading as beef was found in meat products.
He said last year the scandal shaved about 8% off the value of the ready meal market, which grew healthily in 2012. “So the overall growth of the frozen food market by the end of the year was about 2%,” he added.
Ready meal growth
By contrast, frozen potato and vegetable sales grew strongly last year, at about 8% to 10%, he said, showing just how much of an impact horsemeat had on total sales.
“To be honest, most people in the ready meals market would be happy for sales to stabilise this year,” added Young. “Perhaps products such as lasagne and processed meat ready meals will see some growth, but it will be a little while before they are restored.”
Consumers’ poor disposable income would also help boost frozen food sales this year, he predicted.
Frozen food value
“Frozen food continues to be the consumer’s friend,” he said. “Household budgets continue to be squeezed as, even though people say the economy is growing, we haven’t seen wage inflation.”
As a result consumers were more prepared to shop around and became more “savvy” over the past four or five years, Young added and said an increase in this behaviour would be beneficial to the market.
Young also said that the reported health benefits of frozen foods would help drive consumer demand in 2014.
“There’s much research that shows, especially in vegetables, freezing retains the antioxidants more than any other type of preservation method. Consumers are beginning to understand those benefits.”