"A positive way to bring in new consumers" is how judges of The Grocer Gold Awards rated Aldi's own-label frozen fish range, The Fishmonger.

Thanks to a combination of health, affordability and convenience, frozen fish is attracting new consumers across the board.

Sales were up 11% to £654m in the 12 months to February in what amounted to "a fantastic year", supported by improved communication of the quality and freshness of frozen fish as well as value-added NPD.

At Young's, sales of natural fish are up 13% on 2006 [Nielson], says marketing controller Helen Taylor.

"Significant inflation in chilled has led consumers to reconsider frozen and they are now switching," she says. "There has also been increased visibility for frozen natural fish via promotions and an increase in the variety of species sold in frozen natural, such as sea bass, sardines and, more recently, basa. Shoppers are now able to get the breadth of species they are used to buying in chilled."

Even species such as lobster are doing well in the freezer cabinet, while Ramsay's use of scallops in January hasn't done sales any harm either.

The sector is also being boosted by the government's recommendation that people should eat at least two portions of fish a week, as well as the increasing perception of the health benefits of the Omega-3 oil found in fish.

Young's launched its Chip Shop Omega-3 range at Easter with its 5% saturated fat.

Birds Eye has sought to exploit this Omega-3 trend with the launch of its Omega-3 Fish Fingers.

"The results speak for themselves," says marketing director Ben Pearman. "With over 78% awareness and 15% penetration, this launch has introduced 1.1 million new households to the market and driven over £6m of incremental sales."

Birds Eye's Omega-3 launch also tapped into another consumer concern regarding fish: sustainable stocks. The fish fingers in the range contain Alaskan pollock rather than cod. Birds Eye's market clout and reputation makes it ideally placed to encourage consumers to try new and sustainable species, Pearman says.

Birds Eye has followed the Omega-3 fish fingers launch with its Seaside Specials, also made with Alaskan pollock. Findus, meanwhile, farms cod in hatcheries off the coast of Norway, while Young's has a Fish for Life policy.

Offering innovation, sustainability, convenience and choice, frozen fish seems to tick all the right boxes.

A betting man might

even predict last year's 11% growth being outdone this year. n