Bacon sales are sizzling again, according to new figures that provide much-needed cheer for a category rocked by claims that cutting it out of the diet could reduce the risk of cancer.

The value of the bacon market has risen 6% to £1bn this year - back to where it was in 2005 before a slump last year [TNS Worldpanel].

Volume sales, however, fell 0.9%, reflecting a shift by consumers towards premium lines and less reliance by retailers on bogofs.

The positive figures will be welcomed by a sector still reeling from the recent World Cancer Research Fund report, in which the public was advised that not eating bacon could reduce the risk of getting cancer.

Though the data does not cover the period following the publication of the report, and therefore does not reveal the impact the report has had on sales, suppliers were upbeat about the sector's prospects.

Premiumisation was finally injecting value into a category dogged for years by a focus on deep discount promotions, said suppliers.

"Consumers are beginning to believe that you get what you pay for," said Tim Barkey, marketing controller of Wall's owner Kerry Foods.

"They are starting to consider the same factors with bacon as they do with sausages. They think about where it comes from, what has been done to it and what has been added to it."

Richard Haw­kins, sales director at bacon processor Direct Table Foods, added: "Quality has improved significantly in recent years, and better packaging has gone a long way to helping the retailer to distinguish these products on shelf."

The reduced focus on bogofs had not affected the market negatively, claimed John Howard, marketing director of the Danish Bacon & Meat Council. "Bacon remains the most frequently bought meat by quite a long way," he said.

Consumers were also starting to use bacon more creatively, added David Abbott, MD of cooked bacon company TMI Foods.

"People are not sitting down to a cooked breakfast in the numbers they were, but they're eating bacon in other ways such as in pasta."

Focus on Bacon p39