The frozen food renaissance has pushed sales through the £5bn barrier for the first time, new TNS figures show.

Total frozen sales in the year to 14 June 2009 grew 6.3% to £5.1bn, according to the TNS Worldpanel data. Frozen meat and pizza were the categories leading the way, growing by 9.8% and 6.6% respectively.

"It is encouraging to think hard-pressed consumers are beginning to realise the underlying benefits of frozen food," said British Frozen Food Federation director-general Brian Young. "In these recessionary times, consumers are turning to frozen food as they battle with diminishing household budgets."

However, volumes failed to keep up with the strong sales performance. Total volume growth was 0.2%, with the largest increase coming from savoury food, which was up 4.3%. Frozen ready meals suffered the largest volume drop, selling 4.4% fewer units year-on-year.

One of the brightest spots, volume wise, was the ice cream aisle. Good early summer weather has reversed two years of slumping volumes although suppliers have been forced to cut prices. In the 12 weeks to 14 June, volumes grew 1.8% as total sales fell 0.8% - meaning prices on average fell 2.6%.

The summer sales uplift helped reduce the 2009 volume drop to 2.4% [52w/e 14 June 2009] after 2008 volume sales of ice cream fell by a massive 7.3%. Ice cream trading in June and early July could have been better, however.

A spokeswoman for Unilever said distribution problems caused by a broken crane at the main ice cream warehouse for Wall's had since been resolved and the market leader was now confident of strong summer trading. Ice cream category manager Melanie Rolfe added that ice cream sales in June were the best the company had seen in the past five years.

Fredericks Dairies said impulse sales were up 30% this year thanks to improved distribution, while sales of its Del Monte range were up 70% in June.