Frozen food in the UK has typically had a low cost image which has affected its popularity in boom time, when premium brands are popular.
However the economic downturn looks to be persuading consumers to change their minds. A survey conducted by Insight Track for the FDF’s Frozen Food Group found that 49 per cent of people “believe that frozen food will help them through the credit crunch”. Moreover, 75 per cent said frozen food “is better than it used to be”, and 73 per cent recognised a range of premium products.
The difference in price between a frozen and chilled foods is hard to quantify due to the different ranges and value lines on offer. But ready meal, for instance, could come in as much as 40 per cent cheaper than its chilled counterpart.
Beyond cost, 70 per cent said consumers understand that frozen food helps minimise waste as it can be stored for longer than fresh food, according to the researchers; having a freezer-full of supplies means they need to go to the shops less often than if they were only buying ambient or chilled food.
Not only can less visits to the shops mean savings on car fuel but it can also help curb impulse spending – as people tend to put more goods into the trolley than they had planned for, even if they do write out a list in advance.
Norman Soutar, recently appointed chair of the frozen foods group, pointed out that consumer acceptance of frozen food that is “good news for manufacturers and retailers alike, as the industry responds to changing consumer needs with innovative NPD [new product development] and marketing campaigns”.
Soutar noted that convenience and good nutritional value are two of the benefits appreciated by consumers.
A growing market
The latest available data from TNS Worldpanel indicated total market value for frozen foods of £4.94 billion in the 12 months to 25th January, growth of 6.7 per cent on the previous year.
Two segments – frozen savoury food and frozen vegetables – experienced growth of more than 10 per cent, to £867.3m and £398,7m.
The British Frozen Food Federation said the growth is down to “increased level of consumer interest in frozen foods in general, the increased publicity on the amount of food that’s wasted and the many campaigns highlighting the locked in nutritional goodness of frozen foods”.