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“If ever there was a lockdowner’s friend, it’s the freezer,” says Karen Deans, MD of premium frozen food specialists, field fare. They supply over 370 independent retailers with a multiple award-winning range of over 150 products, including pioneering, packaging-free Scoop & Serve lines.
“Our sales are indeed soaring across all product lines,” says Deans, “and because we supply such a cross section - including loose produce, ready meals, desserts, fish and bakery goods - our February to April sales are proving an interesting micro-insight into quarantine consumer behaviour, much of which looks set to remain long after the crisis is over. In particular, we anticipate much-heightened health and environmental concerns and a continuation of shopping locally.”
It all stands to reason, of course. As a naturally-preserved supply of fresh food, frozen products are available whenever and in whatever volume is required, without the issues of perishability or nutrient degradation. They often require less packaging and therefore maximise that critical space-food continuum, and their greatly extended shelf life means fewer shopping trips and less time spent in socially-distanced queues.
“We have noticed huge spikes in sales since the start of the crisis,” says Deans, “notably in fruit and veg sales. Clearly the perishability solution has registered with our customers, but I would also suggest that we are all much more switched on to our health and to eating nutritious, natural foods.”
“Interestingly, our frozen vegetable and frozen fruit mixes are doing particularly well,” she continues. “Customers are clearly spotting their potential for maximising types of produce, flavours, even colours and variety of usage, within the limits of a stockpiled freezer space. Our outright veg winner, curiously, with a huge 180% increase in sales, is sliced beans, followed more predictably by peas.”
With children at home requiring school dinner replacements, and remote workers looking for speedy lunch solutions, quick, crowd-pleaser fixes are also proving hugely popular. The same BFFF/Kantar report, for example, saw sales of that classic ‘fish finger and peas’ pairing leap by 48% and 68%, respectively.
Again, field fare would concur. “Our jumbo fish fingers have always been big sellers, in keeping with the trend for gourmet fish fingers, but lockdown has seen them surge in sales by 87% and our peas by 77%. Savoury pastries and pies are also evidently filling that individually-portioned, lockdown lunch gap, with a 93% sales increase. And our new premium Chicken Kievs couldn’t have been launched at a more opportune time”.
Just as the consumer is more health-focused by the current situation, sustainability concerns are also increasingly guiding purchasing decisions; buoyed by the evidence of pollution levels lowering, animals returning and a rested planet’s tentative start at healing itself. And frozen is, of course, an environmental choice, in terms of much-reduced food waste, packaging, air miles and transportation impact.
Predictably then, sales of field fare’s packaging-free fruit, veg, bakery and fish lines have grown by an average 78%; as customers embrace the concept of scooping precise volumes into compact, degradable bags or into their own, reusable containers, where enabled by the retailer. They are also proving their value in current uncertain supply chains, as Deans explains: “The majority of our lines are unpacked, so we don’t have to wait for new stock to be packed to enable replenishment, meaning uninterrupted supplies through this difficult time.”
As more shoppers recognise what a resource they have in their freezer, Deans is optimistic about their post-corona ‘conversion rate’. “We are confident that the convenience, eco-friendliness and the discovery that the quality of frozen foods has leapt into the premium bracket while their back was turned, will remain long after the crisis has passed.”