A NORTH-EAST food firm had reported a sharp increase in demand in following last year’s horsemeat scandal.

Stokesley-based Quorn Foods, the market-leading meat substitute, saw its fastest ever growth in 2013, attracting more than 10.2 million consumers than the previous year.

Quorn’s UK business reported a 13 per cent growth in total sales last year, and a 20 per cent increase in like-forlike sales in the final quarter of the year, representing sustained sales momentum throughout the year.

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The Stokesley plant produces 70 tonnes of quorn a week.

Kevin Brennan, chief executive of Quorn Foods, which employs 35 people at its North Yorkshire base, said: “At a time when most of the food industry is seeing very little growth, we saw our sales soar in 2013, with double-digit growth sustained throughout the year.

“This puts quorn in a great place for 2014, and I’m confident we will achieve doubledigit growth again this year as we continue to invest in improving our current products and developing new ones.”

A year ago this week, horsemeat was discovered in burgers sold by British supermarkets, and industry experts say the scandal continues to influence shoppers’ habits.

British consumers bought nearly 8,000 fewer tonnes of red meat last year as demand for frozen burgers and ready meals containing beef fell in the wake of the horsemeat scandal.

The latest figures showed sales of beef were down nearly three per cent in the year to December 8 with frozen burgers and frozen ready meals – the two foods most caught up in the scandal, dropping 7.2 per cent and 7.6 per cent respectively.

A survey by Ipsos MORI and The Grocer magazine showed that more than 30 per cent of adults say the scandal has changed the way they buy and choose food, and ten per cent of adults say they are now eating less processed meat as a result.

The horsemeat scandal has also provided a boost for small independent butchers with seven per cent of shoppers using high street outlets instead of supermarkets.