Fish fingers and frozen peas are flying off supermarket shelves as millions of hungry schoolchildren swap school dinners for lunchtime with mum and dad according to the latest industry figures.
Sales data from the British Food Federation (BFFF) and Kantar reveal that in the four weeks from 23 Feb to 22 March British shoppers spent an extra £130 million on everything from ice cream to frozen meat and poultry as they filled up their freezers before the lock down began on 23 March.
Total sales of frozen food jumped 28.3% in volume and 28.1% in value compared to the same four week period last year. In total UK shoppers bought over £6.4 billion worth of frozen food in the year between March 2019 and March 2020.
And the rate of sales has continued with some retailers reporting a 48% increase in the sale of fish fingers and a 68% increase in purchases of frozen peas, says the BFFF.
The Kantar figures reveal that every category of frozen food has seen a sales increase over the four week period with frozen veg sales up 42.5% in volume, frozen meat and poultry up 34.8% in volume and frozen savoury food up 36.7% in volume. Ice cream and frozen confectionery sales also increased in volume by 5.4% and 7.4% respectively.
At the same time visits to the Federation’s consumer website www.freshfromthefreezer.co.uk surged with an extra 45,725 visitors between 1 and 25 April, a 320% increase on April 2019.
Richard Harrow, BFFF chief executive, said: “Our research with individual retailers has revealed they are all experiencing a surge in frozen sales. Some have reported sales of pizza up 50% and sales of frozen broccoli up 93%. The recent warm weather has also seen one supermarket chain’s sales of ice cream increase by 50%. Supply remains in good shape although supply chains are at full stretch. Various actions such as simplified ranging have been introduced to help ensure the industry can keep products on sale as demand continues to remain high.
“Lots of shoppers are looking on our website for information on how to defrost, how long to keep frozen food and to find out if they can refreeze food that’s been defrosted. There are also plenty of people also seeking inspiration from the recipe section.”
He added: “Whilst total sales of frozen food have been increasing in recent years, many people returning to the freezer section will be surprised by the innovation and quality of the products now available and we hope they continue to buy frozen food in the long-term.”
“However, the situation is in stark contrast to what is happening in the hospitality and catering industry where many of our members have seen their orders disappear overnight. We have called for the government support now reaching hotels, restaurants and catering companies to be shared with the wholesalers and manufacturers that supply them.”
Kantar’s 52 week ending 22 March figures also show that over all sales of frozen food were up in terms of both value by 1.7% and volume by 1.3%. Categories that did particularly well were Pizza up 7.9% in value and 10% in volume, frozen veg up 3.7 in value and 5.1% in volume and potato products plus 5.7% in value and 3.4% volume. Frozen fish was also up 4.6% in value and 1.6% in volume.
Meanwhile, frozen ice cream and confectionary remained strong, but both saw reduced value and volume sales compared the previous year’s figures which covered the exceptionally hot summer of 2018.