The frozen food specialists seem to be benefiting from current market conditions. Retail Week Knowledge Bank has recently updated its Farmfoods profile and added a new profile for Frozen Value.

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Eric Herd’s Farmfoods increased sales by 19% in 2010 to £558m, while profits rose even faster. Sales densities are estimated by Retail Week Knowledge Bank to have risen above £400 per sq ft while Farmfoods’ employment costs ratio stands out at just 6.5% of sales, among the lowest in UK retailing.

Meanwhile Frozen Value/Jack Fulton – where Kevin Gunter (with Karen Rees) recently bought out 3i’s minority 40% stake – has passed the £50m sales threshold and, even though profitability slipped in 2009/10, it remained respectable with prospects for higher returns in 2010/11. There is also much more to play for in terms of sales densities and its employment costs ratio, both modest at about £300 per sq ft and 15% respectively.

This leaves the two other leading sub-sector specialists: Malcolm Walker’s Iceland Foods Group, where profits reportedly rose again in 2010/11 and whose market share is now about 2% according to Kantar; and the Heuck family’s Heron Foods, whose acquisition of various former Woolworths stores will have pushed 2010 sales well over £150m from its 160 stores. Both companies’ profiles will also be updated shortly, once full 2010 figures become available.

Clearly the value stance of all four leading frozen food specialists is fundamental to their recent progress. In addition, though, the close identification of each with a key individual or family at their respective helms for many years, understanding the particular characteristics of their customers and meeting their evolving needs, is no coincidence. It proves once again that retail is detail.