With store closures, empty shelves and food wastage costing the industry millions in lost sales during the big freeze, business have rounded on the authorities for their lack of readiness.

There was no excuse for the failure to clear minor roads, said David Frankish, CEO of chilled logistics distributor NFT, which found its Derbyshire hub cut off by the weather. "It's all very well gritting motorways but if you can't get lorries to them it's pointless," he said.

Last year should have been a wake-up call, added Mushtaque Ahmed, business operations manager at JJ Food Service, which saw 15% of deliveries come back to its Doncaster depot. "We were better prepared but got caught out by what is beyond our control," he said.

Brakes agreed its biggest challenge was the state of the roads. "There needs to be a focus on the nation's logistics as our network has quickly ground to a halt," said head of marketing James Armitage.

M&S closed two stores and 50 shut early. Deliveries were disrupted to Waitrose's Aylesford depot and it was unable to supply own-label milk to some stores in the area. In Kent, a string of Dairy Crest vehicles had to return to the dairy.

Wincanton admitted fresh and chilled deliveries hadn't made it to RDCs in Scotland and Kent.

And Spar wholesaler Capper & Co said it had experienced major problems as a result of the closure of the M25. But, said transport manager Bill Simons: "Despite the inadequate and disjointed efforts of ­local authorities and the Highways Agency, we were able to maintain a full, if delayed, level of service."