Meat-free sales on the up

Figures from one of the UK's leading food suppliers show that food sales are holding up, but consumers are increasingly choosing meat-free chilled options.

The latest sales figures from Premier Foods reveal that the meat-free business is thriving, with a double digit sales increase driving a 5.2% growth in the chilled sector despite disappointing ready-meal sales.

The increase suggests strong performance amongst brands such as Cauldron, the UK's first tofu manufacturer which offers a range of chilled meat-free products.

These worrying figures are set against a more encouraging backdrop of impressive sales growth figures from both Premier and Northern Foods, which show that food sales are holding out despite a deepening recession.

Northern Foods has announced robust third quarter trading figures, with underlying sales for the 13 weeks to December 27 up 3% on the previous year. This was achieved despite a 5.2% drop in food sales at Marks & Spencer, one of Northern's main customers.

The Leeds-based company said that it survived the storm by increasing focus on the value sector and increasing supply of own-label value products to discounters such as Aldi, Lidl and Netto.

Stefan Barden, chief executive of Northern Foods, said: "Our key Christmas trading period has been delivered effectively and we continue to respond to the recessionary environment with new value ranges alongside our traditional premium products."

Barden added that market uncertainty over consumer spending seems less pronounced in food than in other sectors.

"We remain confident of maintaining our steady progress and meeting current market expectations for the full financial year," he said.

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