SALES of frozen burgers have plummeted by almost half since the horsemeat contamination scandal erupted, new retail figures show.
Frozen ready meal sales have also fallen by 13 per cent across the UK since the first evidence of horsemeat being used in beef products emerged in January.
According to the latest grocery share figures from consumer experts Kantar Worldpanel, sales of frozen burgers fell by 43 per cent in the first five weeks of the horsemeat scandal.
But the survey has also shown that, despite the scare, major supermarkets have not lost customers. Shoppers have simply switched to different products.
Edward Garner, director at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “The issue has so far only affected the performance of individual markets. For the four weeks ending 17 February, frozen burger sales were down by 43 per cent and frozen ready meals declined by 13 per cent, clearly demonstrating a change in shopping habits.”
Since January, millions of frozen burgers and other beef products have been removed from shelves by retailers including Tesco, Lidl, Aldi and Iceland.
Mr Garner said Tesco’s overall market share had dropped from 30.1 per cent a year ago to 29.7 per cent now.
He said: “It might seem natural to attribute this decline to the horsemeat contamination. However, Tesco undertook heavy promotions this time last year, and not repeating this offer will have adversely affected its share.”
According to the survey, Sainsbury’s was the only one of the Big Four retailers to increase its market share over the period, with a 4.6 per cent growth rate. Morrisons was the only retailer to post a sales decline.
Mr Garner added: “Waitrose and Aldi deliver all-time record shares this period, of 4.8 per cent and 3.3 per cent respectively, indicating that market polarisation and the ‘two nations’ consumer climate continues.”
Yesterday, at a meeting of the Scottish Food Advisory Committee in Aberdeen, Charles Milne, director of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland, also spoke of the impact of the horsemeat scandal on shoppers.
“This has been a real wake-up call for the food industry. While it is not a health issue, it is really serious. People have to be able to trust the labelling,” he said.
“Clearly, consumer trust has taken a knock, because some products were not as labelled.”
But Mr Milne added that labelling regulations were “robust” and the regulatory framework was not broken. He told the committee there was no evidence to suggest that any food processing plants in Scotland were implicated in the scandal.
Meanwhile, Aberdeen Football Club withdrew beef pies from sale at last night’s match against Ross County at Pittodrie.
A Dons spokesman said: “Sodexo, AFC’s catering partner, took the decision to withdraw all frozen and processed beef products for which they do not have evidence of DNA testing. Only when they have this assurance will they allow new products into their business.”
Elsewhere, a new survey by the Confederation of British Industry revealed that the growth in general retail sales slowed again this month.The CBI’s latest quarterly distributive trades survey, which includes the first two weeks of February, found 37 per cent of retailers experienced a rise in sales and 29 per cent reported a drop.