Nomad Foods, the European frozen-food business, has seen unprecedented online demand during the Covid-19 lockdowns as sales growth through the channel almost doubled in April.

In retail, an “influx of new customers” was attracted to the frozen-food category, where Nomad Foods markets a range of brands, including its recently-introduced plant-based Green Cuisine line, which is due to launch into more European markets by the end of the month.

Chief executive Stéfan Descheemaeker, addressing the Deutsche Bank Access Global Consumer conference today (10 June), held virtually because of the Covid-19-related restrictions, said the Birds Eye and Findus owner’s market share for e-commerce was now 40% higher than its share through the retail channel.

Nomad’s online sales grew 80% in April, compared to 43% in March, and 9% in January before the novel coronavirus really took hold in Europe. E-commerce sales for the business now account for 7% of the total versus 5% last year.

Descheemaeker said frozen food consumption is no longer restricted to evening meals, and its products are now being eaten throughout the day, with lunchtime meal occasions seeing the largest number of new entrants.

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By GlobalData

“Growth is being driven by new users through increases in household penetration,” the CEO said. “Frozen food is a planned purchase and a category that is added earlier to consumers’ shopping carts online versus in-store.”

Nomad’s organic revenue growth for the business across all channels is also set to double in the second quarter from the 7.7% posted in the first three months of its fiscal year, compared to 1.7% in the final quarter of 2019.

So far in the quarter, sales are up 14.1% and Nomad expects the final number to be around the low double-digit area.

In the plant-based arena, Nomad launched its Green Cuisine brand in the UK and Ireland last year followed by Germany and France. And by the end of this month, the brand will be available in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Austria and Portugal, Descheemaeker confirmed.

The brand now holds a 5% share of the UK meat-free market, which the CEO said is worth around EUR245m (US$278.5m) in terms of the frozen category. But private label is much larger, with a 19% slice of the UK market, he added.

Descheemaeker reiterated previous comments that revenues generated by Green Cuisine are on-track to reach more than EUR100m by 2022. Over the last week, the company has introduced new lines for the brand – meal mixes for Bolognese, Mexican-style Fajita, and Chilli Con Carne, along with its first fully vegan, meat-free ‘sausage’ rolls.