Frozen burger sales drop 40% amid horse meat scandal

Retail sales of frozen burgers have plummeted by 40 per cent year-on-year in the wake of the horse meat scandal with the decline almost entirely down to customers shunning own-label burgers in favour of branded alternatives, new research reveals.

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The drop in sales reflects the potential impact the food contamination crisis could have on purchasing behaviour.

Data from Nielsen also shows volumes for the week ending 2 February dropped 43 per cent on the same period last year.

The sales collapse was caused by a lack of confidence in retailers’ own-label products, according to Nielsen, however the figures have also been influenced by burgers being pulled from shelves by retailers including Sainsbury’s and Asda.

Indeed, the availability of frozen burgers on the shelf to shoppers fell by 61 per cent for the week ending 2 February.

Around 900,000 households have stopped purchasing frozen burgers, although 1.6 million still bought from the category in the four weeks to 2 February.

Richard Anderson, frozen food analyst at Nielsen, says: “Shoppers are showing confidence in branded burgers, believing that the horse meat issues are confined to retailer own-label products.

“Those continuing to buy frozen burgers have either shifted to buying branded products from own-label, or have added branded products to their repertoire of purchases. Given the confidence in brands, and that horse meat is now a wider issue than just burgers, we expect the frozen burger category – which sparked the recent revelations – to recover.”

More than two thirds (67 per cent) of the 1,062 shoppers surveyed said they would be less likely to purchase processed meat products in the future, while 74 per cent revealed they were concerned about the horse meat news.

The drop in shopper confidence reflects the potential impact the food contamination crisis could have on purchasing behaviour. Last week, key brand metric data from YouGov revealed the negative perception of the retail brands found to be carrying horse meat in their products was extending the entire supermarket sector.

Supermarkets are “absolutely determined” to regain the trust of consumers in light of the revelations, the environmental secretary Owen Paterson said yesterday (18 February) following a meeting with the UK’s food industry.

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