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Horsemeat scandal hits sales

Supermarket sales data recently released shows the impact of the horsemeat scandal. Photo: Julien Behal/PA Wire

The horsemeat scandal has taken a bite out of the processed meat market.

The latest supermarket sales data shows a dramatic downturn in the product categories most affected by the scandal.

These are the first such retail figures since this erupted, and they show the impact of the first five weeks of the horsemeat contamination scandal, which broke on 16 January:

The figures show:

  • Frozen burger sales are down by 43 per cent
  • Frozen ready meals are down by 13 per cent
  • Iceland had 10.1 per cent growth, which is being seen as confirming that the frozen food category as a whole remains robust.

Source: Kantar Worldpanel

So what are people buying instead? One supermarket, Morrisons, has reported an 18 per cent rise in traditional cuts of meat as people move away from the processed products.

Health food chain Holland & Barrett says sales of its veggie burgers have been up 17 per cent.

And a poll of shoppers has suggested the equivalent of four million people have decided to stop buying processed meat altogether, with just over one in five buying less meat overall. Six per cent claimed to know someone who has gone vegetarian as a direct result of the scandal.

Of course this is an international scandal - but the way different countries respond is varying. For example, the French industry body for horse butchers says there has been a rise of 15 per cent in horsemeat sales since the scandal broke.

It has reawakened interest in what is a cheaper form of meat that can be used in a lot of recipes - as we have unwittingly seen in some of the products we have been buying.