The chief executive of Asda has revealed the supermarket giant has seen a jump in sales of vegetable ready-meals and quorn in the wake of the horse meat scandal.
Andy Clarke said customers were "switching" to non-meat options, adding he was "shocked" about the controversy and took full responsibility for the traces of horse meat found in its own-brand beef bolognese sauce and frozen burgers from Freeza Meats.
The Walmart-owned grocer immediately withdrew both products when the contamination was identified this month. He made his comments as Asda delivered meagre underlying sales growth of 0.1 per cent over the 14 weeks to 5 January, compared with 1 per cent over the past year.
Mr Clarke said: "Looking ahead we expect the market to remain tough in 2013 for our customers." Its festive performance was behind Tesco's 1.8 per cent growth and Sainsbury's 0.9 per cent rise but ahead of a 2.5 per cent fall in sales at Morrisons over different periods.
On the horse meat scandal, Mr Clarke said: "For Asda, our customers come into our stores and they expect to buy what's on the label. So I feel very responsible for that." He added: "But I want you to know that I'm leaving no stone unturned to address what happened in our supply chain."
Asda's clothing brand, George, had a "record" year for sales and profits, boasting it is the UK's fastest-growing fashion retailer online.Sales of George on the internet rocketed by more than 55 per cent over the 24 weeks to 23 January, according to Kantar Worldpanel.
This has convinced George, which has four franchise stores in the Middle East and Channel Islands, to expand its online delivery to 24 countries by July, including France and Spain.
George, which is sold in more than 560 Asda stores, plans to launch pop-up shops at events, such as this year's Baby Show at Birmingham's NEC and even the rock festival Glastonbury.