Exploring the frozen food opportunity

06 March 2023, 09:39 AM
  • Fine food retailers are yet to fully capitalise on the benefits of premium frozen produce – find out how and why to focus on this underrated sector
Exploring the frozen food opportunity

As the UK embraces a post-Covid world, retailers are battling a cost-of-living crisis and the need to adapt to conscious consumerism, and frozen meal solutions are only growing in popularity. But the fine food industry has evolved to offer much more than just a quick fix for busy shoppers.

Thanks to a unique combination of innovation and a laser-sharp focus on quality and taste, the speciality sector offers a raft of artisanal frozen food products which not only satisfy the current need for affordable, sustainable options but the appetite for delicious produce, too.

Catering to demand
This year will no doubt be challenging for many, with the cost-of-living crisis continuing to impact both consumers and suppliers. So how can independent retailers cater to demand in 2023?

According to Rupert Ashby, CEO of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), “Despite the cost-of-living crisis, quality remains exceptionally important to consumers. There are more luxury frozen products than ever before that give consumers the opportunity to cook restaurant-quality food at home.”

This is something that Macknade abides by, as Finn Dunlop, group buying manager, agreed. “Despite the ever increasingly busy lifestyles we all lead, customers are also rightly demanding quality and healthy frozen food made using great ingredients, countering the traditional image of convenience at the expense of quality.”

Therefore, in 2023, shoppers are looking for solutions to save money while still enjoying high-quality, healthful products. Fieldfare offers loose frozen vegetables, fruit, and ‘meal makers’, allowing customers to only buy what they need, reducing waste and in turn, saving their precious pennies.

As Matt Whelan, director at Fieldfare, explains, “Our concept particularly appeals to the single and two-person households – of which there are significantly more than there were two decades ago. Dynamics within the traditional family home have also changed and personal requirements, be it due to work commitments or personal tastes, often dictate that there are different mealtimes for family members or even different dishes at the same table.

“We are constantly looking at the market and what consumers want to ensure that our range addresses shopper requirements. For example, our latest line (launched in late summer 2022) of individually portioned desserts and party-pleaser bites is proving to be particularly popular with shoppers, as they look to spoil themselves and their families with small, everyday treats.”

“By presenting our high-quality foods loose or with as little packaging as possible, we allow shoppers to scoop as much or as little as they like. This helps them to cater for individual needs in their household, avoid food waste at home and even manage budgets more effectively, as they are not tied to buying pre-packed quantities.”

Moreover, according to Joe Hill, co-founder of premium plant-based pizza brand One Planet Pizza, “Consumers are seeking convenience, affordability and value for money above all. But we’re also seeing a growing demand for ‘healthy indulgent’ products that offer comfort without the negative health impacts associated with unhealthy foods.

“Recent research suggests the majority of consumers want to eat products that are less harmful to the environment and buy from more responsible brands. The rise of these ‘conscious consumers’ will continue to drive product development and shape the market in 2023.”

The sustainable factor
Of course, the pinnacle of the fine food retailer is quality. But while this may conjure images of fresh ambient and chilled products, it doesn’t mean frozen can’t live up to this standard. Indeed, it can provide a more sustainable form of quality.

As Matt explains, “Freezing is of course nature’s preservative and freezing our products as fresh as the day they were picked or created, means that we can offer our stockists and their shoppers a wide range of foods all year around. The much-extended shelf life also means that retailers, and shoppers, can save on food waste as there’s no need to worry about short sell-by or use-by dates.”

According to Finn, “Where fresh fruit and veg is obviously the cornerstone of our business, we should also recognise the benefits of frozen produce, being picked and preserved at the peak of their condition and minimising food waste.

“Frozen is a great method of minimising deterioration and wastage of produce sitting in larders and fridges without being used.”

This focus on waste reduction is certainly something Joe echoes. “Focusing on frozen allows us to greatly reduce any food waste right through from sourcing ingredients to the shelf life of the end product. All our raw materials are stored frozen and applied to the pizzas frozen which means almost no wastage occurs within production.

“On top of this, consumers won’t ever have to throw away a forgotten pizza that’s found at the back of the fridge (as long as they’re following our storage guidelines!)”, he tells Speciality Food.

Frozen also allows the independent retailer to reduce costs during a tumultuous economic climate as they embrace sustainability. According to Matt, “For retailers, frozen has the potential to help reduce some of their costs, which is a welcome prospect at a time of rising inflation and operational costs.

“The naturally long shelf life means that food waste is reduced significantly versus chilled. Retailers can stock up on essentials, especially during key selling periods, without the fear of having to dispose of a large volume of leftover stock afterwards.

“With Fieldfare’s chest freezers using only 3.3 kwh of energy per day, there is also the potential to save on energy bills as chest freezers use significantly less energy to run than open chillers. This then also makes for a positive story which may appeal to the sustainability-aware shopper.”

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