UK ready-meal sales down 40% in February
The sale of ready meals in the UK fell by 30-40 per cent in February because of the horse meat scandal, according to Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney.
He said consumers lost confidence in the supply chain and began buying other foods. That drop in sales was “enormous in an industry that’s several billion of revenue. That makes a big, big difference.”
Mr Coveney said about 7 per cent of Greencore’s business was in ready meals and most of that involved beef, but he did not think the February figures would be replicated.
“The history of food scares is that they do get dealt with and consumer confidence can be rebuilt, but it normally requires substantive action rather than just marketing.”
Greencore was drawn into the horse meat scandal last month when Asda discovered horse DNA in a beef bolognese sauce produced by the convenience food company. It said the beef in the product came from ABP’s meat plant in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, but the ABP Food Group has insisted it was not the source of the horse meat.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Business programme, Mr Coveney said he was restricted in what he could say about this.
“But what I would say is that ABP are a big supplier to us . . . so we’re working through the specifics on this one incident with them and I hope within a matter of days or weeks we’ll be able to bring clarity to that situation.”
He said the core of the horse meat scandal was criminality “where you have a broker network in certain parts of Europe buying up that product because it’s a fifth of the price of a tonne of beef and relabelling it as beef . . . and that needs to be weeded out and it needs the full force of EU law to go after it”.
Mr Coveney is a brother of Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney.
Taco Bell is the latest household name to be drawn into the horse meat scandal, with the UK’s Food Safety Agency announcing that horse meat had been found in ground beef at Taco Bell UK fast-food outlets. Taco Bell said the issue was isolated to its UK market, where it has three restaurants. It does not have any outlets in this State.
The scandal has now spread to Asia following the discovery of horse meat in meatballs sold by furniture retailer Ikea. The company stopped meatball sales in stores across most of Europe, but also in Hong Kong, Thailand and the Dominican Republic, all supplied by Swedish company Familjen Dafgard. Ikea in Malaysia, run by a franchiser with a local meatball supplier, also stopped sales.