Frozen Food Report reveals new habits developed in lockdown bolster frozen category for the long-term

  • 19.8% growth in sales of savoury frozen foods since 2019 with plant-based up 16.8%
  • Shopping patterns continue to flex in response to changes to government guidance on working from home, social distancing and the re-opening of pubs and restaurants
  • Frozen fish sales increase by £141.2m in just two years

The Frozen Food Report, released today, shows that retail frozen food sales have grown by 13.5%, compared to pre-pandemic levels, suggesting that consumers have truly fallen back in love with their freezers.

The Report reveals that despite restaurants, cafes and pubs opening back up in April 2021 following over 12 months of restrictions, frozen sales have maintained their momentum.

The return to eating out has led to less frequent shops and smaller shopping baskets which has seen the year-on-year value growth of the frozen food market slow to 1.2%.

Commenting on the statistics, BFFF chief executive, Richard Harrow, said: “After two years of disruption, the retail market is returning to pre-pandemic normal, but frozen has attracted over 400,000 more shoppers in the last two years. The retail frozen food market is now worth £7.1bn and has added nearly £850m worth of sales since 2019 that’s value growth of +13.5% and volume growth of +9.2%. With the total grocery market broadly flat, frozen sales have significantly outperformed the market.

“Last year was another turbulent year for everyone in FMCG. With foodservice outlets opening back up in April, it would have been overly optimistic to assume the same success that we saw in 2020. However, when you look at the market compared to 2019, we have seen incredible growth. While consumers may have looked to frozen out of necessity in 2020, they have come back through choice in 2021.”

According to Kantar ice cream is the largest single category in frozen, worth £1.3bn to retailers and accounting for 18.6% of their overall frozen food sales, up from 17.3% in 2019. Frozen fish broke through the £1bn barrier in 2020 and 2021’s sales represent a 16.4% (£141.2m) gain in just two years.

However, lifestyle changes are driving meat free innovation. Vegan and vegetarian products have achieved 16.8% growth since 2019, contributing to a £237.4m (19.8%) growth in sales of savoury foods in the same period.

Harrow added: “There has been incredible innovation in the frozen plant-based category. From developments in the texture and mouthfeel of meat alternatives to new recipes that make vegetables the star of the show, it’s no surprise that consumers with all kinds of dietary needs and preferences are adding these types of products to their baskets. The plant-based category is growing at four times the rate of meat analogue products and we expect this trend to continue.

“Another factor that will drive frozen sales is food waste. The majority of shoppers (62%) are now influenced in their food and drink purchases by sustainability issues and frozen food, with its proven ability to cut food waste, is perfectly positioned to help.”

In terms of pricing, the frozen category has returned to a form of normality with promotional participation trending back to levels of 2019 in most categories.

Harrow summarised: “Continued price matching with Aldi is impacting some categories. This is good news for consumers as frozen vegetable prices are down 3.7% in the past year and down 6% since 2019. However, it does put producers under even more pressure at a time of increasing inflation.”

The Frozen Food Report 2022 brings together research from leading names including Kantar Worldpanel and IGD to give a full picture of the market for frozen food. It has been produced by the BFFF Young Leaders Forum, with input from BFFF members, and features opinions and commentary from brands including Birds Eye, Young’s Seafood and Froneri.

Copies of the Frozen Food Report are available online.

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