Frozen burger sales dropped by 43% in the four weeks to 17 February, while frozen ready meals fell 13%.

The first results from consumer research company Kantar Worldpanel since the horsemeat scandal broke on 16 January show that fresh burgers and grill sales were down 6% in value over the same period.

However, director Edward Garner cautioned that changes in four-week data could be subject to the effect of promotional activity as well as consumer reaction to the horsemeat affair, which had seen retailers “desperately scrabbling to nail the issue so it never happens again”.

Twelve-week data for fresh burger and grill sales show these rose by 4%.

“Provenance has rocketed up the list of priorities,” said Mr Garner. Whether there was a medium- or long-term benefit to home-produced meat sales as a result of the scandal depended largely on how retailers handled things from now on, he said.

“It’s a case of not blowing it,” he said. Home-produced meat should have a tail wind, but retailers would have to be careful to reassure consumers on provenance at the same time as carefully managing profit levels on that home-produced meat.

The issue has so far only affected the performance of individual categories rather than where consumers choose to shop.

“Tesco’s share has come under pressure this (12-week) period, with a drop from 30.1% a year ago to 29.7% now. It might seem natural to attribute this decline to the horsemeat contamination, but Tesco undertook heavy promotions this time last year, where consumers received a £5 voucher when they spent £40, and not repeating this offer will have adversely affected its share.”

Sainsbury’s was the only one of the big four retailers to increase share this period, with a 4.6% growth rate. Waitrose and Aldi showed all-time record shares of 4.8% and 3.3%, respectively, while Iceland’s 10.1% growth confirmed that the frozen food category as a whole remained robust, said Mr Garner.

The total grocery market is growing at an annual rate of 3.7%, which lags behind grocery price inflation of 4.3%.

The results on meat sales are based on Kantar’s regular data series tracking the grocery buying habits of 30,000 households in Great Britain.

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