Thriving frozen food industry gears up to celebrate a century of success

The frozen food industry has generated a record-breaking year in 2023 with exceptional performance amid rising costs and inflation throughout the entire supply chain.

According to new Kantar data from the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), the frozen food industry has experienced growth in both value and volume, with a year-on-year increase in value of +15.6% (£1,131,220,000) and volume of +0.4% (9,398,000 tonnes) in total frozen foods.

Frozen potato products (+4.6%), pizza (+1.6%) and savoury food (+5.1%) have all experienced substantial volume growth in the 52 weeks to 26 November, as well as in the past 12 weeks compared to the same period last year. The demand for these value for money products is primarily due to shoppers having to tighten their belts during the cost of living crisis.

Certain categories have remained relatively stable regarding volume change over the past 52 weeks. Volume sales of frozen vegetables, for example, have grown by 0.7%. This ties in with consumers becoming increasingly more health conscious.

Frozen ready meals and fish have seen volume decline by -0.9% and -0.8% respectively. However, frozen fish has bucked that trend over the past 12 weeks, with an increase in volume of +1.8% compared to the same period last year.

One big surprise is ice-cream sales which have grown by an impressive 10% in the 12 weeks to 26 November. This unusual spike in demand over the autumn winter season reflects recent impressive innovation in the category and shoppers opting for more cosy nights in rather than costly nights out.

Frozen confectionery (-4.8%) has seen a decline in volume in 2023 with budget-conscious shoppers cutting down on nonessential items such as sweet treats.

Whilst meat and poultry performed very well earlier in the year, in the 12 weeks to 26 November 2023, this category saw a huge drop in volume sales of -17.5%. This may be due to the cost of meat rising significantly, forcing many consumers to buy less, coupled with the rising number of consumers moving to vegan and vegetarian food.

“With inflation beginning to ease – dropping to 9.2% in November, down from 10.1% in October and 12.2% in September – we hope to see sales increase in the new year as consumers have more disposable income”, said Rupert Ashby, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation.

“I am elated to see the exceptional performance of our industry in 2023. The numbers speak volumes and are a testament to our members who have continued to innovate and provide shoppers with value for money foods, despite battling rising costs and inflation. Frozen food has been embraced by shoppers during what has been an extremely tough year for many.

“We are not only celebrating the end of a very successful 75th anniversary year for the BFFF but are also eagerly anticipating another remarkable milestone, as 2024 marks an amazing 100 years since Clarence Birdseye launched the fast freezing process that would change food production and distribution forever. Frozen food made its way to the UK in 1938 and has since become a kitchen staple. Our 100 year journey is a reflection of the ever-improving taste, quality and convenience of frozen food and we hope to continue to support our members and the wider industry for the next century,” said Mr Ashby.

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