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Iceland’s biggest-ever NPD push outside Christmas has been partly fuelled by “nervousness” over a dip in the frozen market as lockdown restrictions eased.

The Grocer revealed last week the frozen specialist had landed 250 new products in stores in a day, spanning own label to exclusive new brands such as Piccolino.

“Many more” are set to launch during the rest of this year and into next in “certainly” the biggest-ever frozen NPD drive for the time of year, Iceland trading director Andrew Staniland told The Grocer this week.

While Iceland was already working hard on NPD before and throughout the pandemic, the drive was spurred on by worries frozen sales gains made in lockdowns would slip away, Staniland said.

“There was an element of nervousness coming out of Covid-19, which was that sales on frozen food were going to slip back to what they were previously, to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

In the 12 weeks to 13 June, frozen sales fell 5.7% in value and 7.1% in volume – faster than any other grocery category [Kantar]. In contrast, fresh & chilled saw a 1.2% value decline and a 5.1% dip in volume.

However, Staniland said Iceland’s innovation meant it was defying the dip in the market. “We see a big correlation with transactions, sales growth and market share growth when we land swathes of new products, and that goes across exclusive brands, brands and own label,” he said.

“All of the new products that we’ve put in stores recently have meant we’re actually growing sales year on year at the moment.”

It “ultimately gives us a footfall we wouldn’t normally have”, he added.

New exclusive brands in the latest round of launches include an Ed’s Easy Diner range, Cathedral City ready meals and Mary Berry desserts. They join existing Iceland exclusive brands such as Harry Ramsden’s and Greggs.

“Be it Slimming World, Greggs, Ed’s Easy Diner, Harry Ramsden’s, TGI Friday’s, it actually opens up a lot more new customers to Iceland and as a result of that we’ve seen transaction growth,” said Staniland.

All 250 new lines are in larger branches of The Food Warehouse while a selection of about 150 are in smaller Iceland stores. 

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