UK food and drink sales resist recession pressures (so far)

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cent Food preservation

While the recession bites in the UK, and consumers tighten their belts, food and drink retail sales were up 5.1 per cent, on a like-for-like basis from January 2008.

According to a new report from the British Retail Consortium, non-food items are down on last year, but food has bucked the trend and recorded a year-on-year increase.

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of market analyst IGD, said: “Food and drink is holding up well, suggesting an industry that is recession-resistant. It is also highly adaptable and very much in tune with its shoppers, tailoring product offers to their changing needs.

Denney-Finch added that consumers are increasingly price sensitive, however, noting that consumer research had shown that 36 per cent of shoppers cite price as a main driver of product choice. This is up from 29 per cent last year.

“But while they are shopping around for the best value, they are not, in general, letting the recession get in the way of enjoying the high standard of food and drink they consume at home,”​ added Denney-Finch.

While many food stuffs, ranging from bananas to chocolate, are branding themselves ‘recession-proof’, the IGD data showed that ethical shopping continues to resist the downturn.

“Support for ethical shopping - for example free-range, Fairtrade and local foods - continues to grow. Animal welfare, in particular, is high on shoppers’ agendas with one in five (20 per cent) looking for high standards, compared with one in eight (13 per cent) a year ago,”​ said Denney-Finch.

Frozen foods showing hot potential

Data from TNS Worldpanel last month showed signs of revival for the frozen foods market, with indications that consumers are switching back from higher-priced chilled foods to frozen alternatives in order to save costs and reduce waste.

A steady increase in the growth rate for the UK frozen food sector over the past year was reported, with increases of 3.1 per cent 12 months ago, to 4.2 per cent in March, to 4.6 per cent in June, to 5.0 per cent in September.

The latest data, from November 30th, valued the market at £4.867bn (c €5.38bn at January exchange rates) and put growth at 5.8 per cent.

Brian Young, director-general of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), told last month that this boom is directly linked to the recession: “The underlying reason is value.”

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