The credit crunch and weakening economy could favour those Top 50 independent retailers operating in the frozen sector, as consumers looking to save money begin to turn to cheaper frozen foods. Sales of frozen food have risen 1.4% in the year to March [TNS]. 

The category has benefited from the economic climate and from investment by brands such as McCain and Birds Eye, as well as frozen retailers. Farmfoods, the UK's second-biggest independent retailer, has been performing well. The frozen food retailer, which operates more than 300 stores across the UK, is the highest-ranking food and drink company in The Sunday Times' Top Track 250 list of Britain's biggest mid-market private companies. It is ranked at number four with sales of almost £401m and profit of £6m in 2005.
Heron Frozen Foods, meanwhile, reported the seventh-biggest profit margin in The Grocer's Top 50 independent list this year, at 4.5% on sales of £101m. Frozen Value, which has a turnover of £35.3m and reported a profit of £711,000 last year, has announced expansion plans for this year. The company, which operates 78 stores in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Humberside and Nottinghamshire under the Jack Fulton brand, plans to open six stores this year, a move that will see it expand into other parts of England as well as Scotland and Wales. 

According to MD Kevin Gunter the time is right to grow because of renewed interest in frozen food. Online frozen food retailers are also looking to expand. Home delivery frozen foods retailer Oakhouse Foods is attempting to break into the convenience store sector with the launch of a ready meal retail brand. The company, which sells a 275-strong range of its own-label traditional frozen meals and desserts, including cottage pies and bread & butter puddings plans to launch into independents later this year.n