LONDON (Reuters) - Grocers have seen sales of frozen burgers and ready meals plummet in the wake of a scandal over the discovery of horsemeat in beef products, according to industry data published on Tuesday.
Market researcher Kantar Worldpanel said in the four weeks ending February 17, frozen burger sales were down 43 percent year-on-year and sales of frozen ready meals declined by 13 percent.
The issue, which broke on January 15, has only affected the products consumers buy rather than where they actually do their shopping, said Edward Garner, director at Kantar Worldpanel.
The horsemeat scandal has spread across Europe since tests in Ireland last month revealed some beef products sold there and in Britain contained equine DNA.
Tesco, Britain's biggest grocer, saw its share of the grocery market fall to 29.7 percent in the 12 weeks to February 17.
Garner said it would be wrong to attribute this decline to the horsemeat scandal as in the same period last year Tesco had promoted heavily, offering consumers a 5 pounds voucher when they spent 40 pounds.
"Not repeating this offer will have adversely affected its share," he said.
In the 12-week period, only No. 3 grocer Sainsbury's increased its share, with a sales rise of 4.6 percent.
No. 4 player Morrisons was the only major grocer to post a sales decline.
Upmarket grocer Waitrose and discounter Aldi delivered all-time record market shares this period of 4.8 percent and 3.3 percent respectively indicating that market polarisation is continuing.
The total grocery market grew 3.7 percent, lagging behind grocery price inflation of 4.3 percent.
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Mike Nesbit)