This article is part of our Frozen digital feature.

Frozen ready meals have seen the light, having gained £18.4m over the past year, with value up 2.8% on volumes up 1.3% [Kantar 52 w/e 8 November 2015].

Impressive, considering just three years ago the category was rocked by the Horsegate scandal. Branded players are to thank for this growth, with value up a whopping 12.5% on volumes up 9.3% - own label, meanwhile, lost 6.5% in value on volumes down 5.6%.

  £m y-o-y% kgs (m) y-o-y%
Bisto £31.1 31.0 9.7 34.9
WeightWatchers £29.1 -7.5 7.5 3.8
Birds Eye £20.2 19.1 3.7 20.4
Young’s £15.0 -16.1 4.1 -16.8
Kershaws £11.8 1.8 3.2 1.5

The biggest success was Slimming World’s ready meal launch, which is now worth nearly £30m [Nielsen 52 w/e 10 October 2015].

“After only 12 months in the market, the Slimming World brand is the number one brand in the marketplace, a staggering performance as it is only sold through Iceland stores,” says Iceland joint MD Nigel Broadhurst.

A 3% increase in average price across branded ready meals also helped. This was partly due to a decrease in promotional activity, but also the introduction of added-value lines such as Birds Eye’s Stir Your Senses, Young’s Gastro Meal for One and Bisto’s Chef’s Specials range.

“The objectives of the range were to not only attract new shoppers but to trade up our existing consumers through the trusted Bisto Chef’s Specials brand with a variety of tasty meals featuring iconic British recipes,” says Charlotte Bourne, frozen ready meal brand manager at Kerry Foods.

It seems to be working – Bisto had the second-biggest gains in the freezer, after Slimming World, adding £7.4m to brand value [IRI 52 w/e 2 January 2016]. Birds Eye, meanwhile, claims Stir Your Senses was its bestselling piece of NPD in 2015, having racked up £7.8m in sales.

Not everyone was so lucky. WeightWatchers saw sales of its frozen ready meals fall by 7.5%. Volume sales were up 3.5%. Mr Brain’s suffered the biggest losses as sales fell 19.7% on volumes down 22.5%, which owner Kerry Foods attributes to an ageing consumer base as the brand struggles to convert younger consumers.

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