Birds Eye sales 'ahead of plan', driven by COVID-19

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Birds Eye launched its plant-based Green Cuisine range in 2019
Birds Eye launched its plant-based Green Cuisine range in 2019

Related tags frozen Finance

Frozen food manufacturer Birds Eye's sales increased 'ahead of plan' in the second financial quarter of 2020, according to its annual report just published by Companies House.

The report covers the year ended 31 December 2019, but includes comment on performance since then.

It states: "Driven by the market impact of COVID-19 in 2020, a sales increase ahead of plan was seen in the second quarter of the year."

The company goes on to claim that despite a 'dynamic' market, it believes it is well-placed to maintain competitiveness and relevance, with sister brands Aunt Bessie's and Goodfella's now integrated having been acquired by parent firm Nomad Foods Group.

Birds Eye said it had acquired the business and assets of Aunt Bessie's Limited, a wholly-owned fellow subsidiary of Nomad Foods, for £47.8m on 2 November 2019. That included the Aunt Bessie's factory in Hull. All Aunt Bessie's employees also transferred over to Birds Eye.

'Relevant and competitive'

"The macro environmental view for the second half of the year is that the market will be dynamic, however with a now fully integrated business, communication of the quality of our products, continued strengthening of the brand through media investment, and focus on balancing the needs of the consumer, customer and company, the company will be able to remain relevant and competitive,"​ it states in its annual report.

Referencing the pandemic, Birds Eye said it sourced some of its fish and spices from China and it had been sourcing alternative supplies where its supply chain had been disrupted.

Birds Eye reported its third consecutive year of growth in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, helped by the successful launches of its Chicken Shop brand in 2018 and meat substitute range Green Cuisine in 2019.

The company reported revenue up from £430.9m in 2018 to £486.1m last year. Operating profit increased from £10.9m to £12.3m.

Performance of entire frozen food market

Statistics released by Kantar and the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) on 30 September indicated sales of frozen food had increased by £221m in the three months to 6 September.

The growth in sales followed an increase of £285m in the previous 12-week period from the end of March to 14 June, indicating that the popularity of frozen food had continued despite the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Over the 52 weeks to 6 September the frozen category had added £617m in sales value and 175 tonnes in volume, reaching a total of £6.9bn.

'Above grocery, fresh and chilled'

Commenting on the figures, Richard Harrow, BFFF chief executive said: “The performance of the frozen category remains very positive with continued growth ahead of total grocery. In all three sets of 12-week data supplied by Kantar this year, frozen value performance has been above both grocery and fresh and chilled in percentage terms. 

“Not unexpectedly the latest figures reveal a slight decline in the massive sales growth in value and volume reported at the end of June. This is the result of shoppers adjusting their shopping habits as a result of an easing of lockdown restrictions.”

However, he added: “We know that since mid-March, more consumers than ever have been shopping in the frozen aisle. This is hardly surprising, given the long shelf-life, reduced food waste, value for money and variety of food on offer there. These latest figures indicate this may be a long-term trend.”

Related topics Frozen Business Leaders COVID-19

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