Sales of veal have rocketed as the industry improves the supply chain and addresses shoppers' welfare fears.

Value sales rose 55% to £1.9m last year, with volumes up 31% to 162,000 kg [Kantar Worldpanel 52w/e 27 December 2009].

The figures were evidence supermarkets had done a good job in promoting and presenting veal in-store, said the National Beef Association, adding that there had been a shift in shoppers' attitudes towards buying veal.

"They've obviously got over their sensitivities they've bought the product, they've enjoyed the product and gone back to buy it again," said NBA director Kim-Marie Haywood.

Consumer perception of veal was changing, agreed Richard Phelps, MD of Blade Farming, which is setting up more veal rearing units to increase supply. "People now see veal as less of a bad product and more of a positive thing," he said.

Some celebrity chefs were using English rosé veal, which had helped awareness, added Gerard King, who runs The Broxtead Butchery at the Suffolk Foodhall. "It can only go from strength to strength," he said.

The figures were good news for the industry, added Haywood. "This is a real success story because when calf exports collapsed in August 2007, the industry and all the welfare people pulled together for the first time, for the good of the industry."

Retailers have also been developing their supply chains to move unwanted male dairy calves into the veal market, with animal welfare organisations generally supportive of efforts to stop the practice of shooting calves at birth or exporting them.

Recent years had seen a surge in consumer interest in welfare considerations when buying meat, said an RSPCA spokeswoman. She warned there were differences in welfare standards between white and rosé veal, with white veal produced in systems where animal welfare standards were lower and rosé veal coming from calves reared in a more natural way.