The horsemeat scandal has contributed to the nation’s chillers and freezers becoming hotbeds of promotional activity compared with this time last year.

Year-on-year promotional activity has soared in almost all parts of the supermarket with some of the sharpest rises seen in chilled and fresh, according to analysts Assosia.

One factor driving the rise in chilled and also frozen promotions is ‘Horsegate’, as suppliers and retailers look to stem declining sales in affected categories, says Assosia MD Kay Staniland. Retailers offered 81 featured space promotions on chilled ready meals in the past four weeks, up from 56 year-on-year, while frozen ready meal deals are up from 62 to 110.

Plastic packaging prices still rising

Plastics prices rose until the end of March, when further price increases for crude oil were expected, with UK prices for both LDPE and HDPE increasing by nearly 4% month-on-month.

This was a reflection of wider global trends, with higher feedstock costs also attributed to price rises in Asian and US LDPE and HDPE during that period.

However, prices have since started to ease back, and both LDPE and HDPE prices remain largely flat on a year-on-year basis.

Despite a small upward movement month-on-month, UK PET prices have fallen sharply over the past year, down 11.9% to £1,216/tonne from this time last year.

This is due to a fall in paraxylene prices, which is a major feedstock for PET.

Weakened demand for bottled beverages, as a result of the recent bad weather, has also contributed to weaker prices.

“With some ranges withdrawn, suppliers and retailers can’t afford to let categories continue to slide,” adds Staniland.

Overall, offers in chilled have risen from 343 a year ago to 562. Attempts to offset the damage of ‘Horsegate’ has prompted a similar increase in meat promotions, with deals up from 264 to 460. In fresh produce, deals have almost doubled from 368 to 728. Fresh increased its share of all featured space activity in the big five from 4.4% to 6.4%.

Over the same period, the share of all activity attributed to general grocery dropped by a similar amount, from 13% of all featured space to 10.1%. While the number of promotions on general grocery has risen year-on-year, the 13.5% increase from 1,089 to 1,236 was far shallower than the majority of categories.

One thing general grocery has had in common with chilled is a drop in the savings offered - contributing to the typical saving across the supermarkets falling 1.6 points year-on-year to 32.3%. Own-label savings have fallen 0.5 points but the number of own-label offers has soared from 1,358 deals to 2,192 - a 61.4% hike compared with a 30.2% rise in brand activity.

Seven of the top 10 most-promoted brands have contributed to that year-on-year increase, with Coca-Cola continuing the promotional drive it started in January and more than doubling deals from 95 a year ago to 208 this year.