Fish boosts frozen food fortunes – Fishupdate.com

Fish boosts frozen food fortunes Published:  27 September, 2006

THE fortunes of frozen food in the UK may at last be turning the corner – thanks to a big helping hand from fish and seafood in general.

The British Frozen Food Federation reports that production in the 12 months to August 2006 did not show a decline and was marginally up at just under two billion tonnes.

The figures from market leader Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) suggest that the industry is at least stabilising and that overall sales volumes are not being lost to other sectors. The BFFF, which is calling for a frozen food revival, says this comparison is often wrongly highlighted by certain trade press commentators to give a misleading and incorrect impression of the industry.

The report also contrasts with a sobering analysis from Plimsoll Publishing Ltd in June that 20 per cent of frozen food companies could be in serious financial trouble.

The good news for the fish processing industry is that sales by value during the period increased by three per cent – from £556million to almost £570.5million, although the figures do not include the full impact of the recent surge in prices. Volume production of frozen seafood remained static at around 109,575 tonnes. The message is that the outlook for frozen fish remains fairly buoyant, thanks in part to the health message, although any sharp price fluctuations could alter this next year.

The BFFF director general Alf Carr again repeated his warning that supermarket price wars, excessive discounting and other promotional measures were damaging the image of frozen food as being “cheap and cheerful”.

And the TNS report generally does not reflect the gloom that some commentators are trying to foster. He says: “In fact TNS report suggests a contrary picture with a virtually established sales value, although different categories will fluctuate from time to time.”

The one downside from the report is that frozen ready meals, including seafood based meals, showed a drop of around eight per cent in value and five per cent in volume. The BFFF said it was to be hoped that the new owners of Birds Eye (the private equity group Permira) would help to address this situation in an area where Unilever had market leadership.

“And we hope that multiples will drive their own-label ready meals back up market, where they should belong,” Mr Carr added. He said: “There are still great opportunities for frozen ready meals and a cheap and cheerful approach is not wanted by the public.

“The BFFF feels that with sales volumes stabilising and a new attitude from market leaders in supply and retailing, the time is right for a long overdue frozen food revival. Frozen is still the best way to preserve the active life and quality of our food.”

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