Come in out of the cold Frozen food seeing revival in retail

Frozen food is a near-universal part of British menus, spurred on by the strong value for money and convenience image of the most popular products. Frozen food is a mainstay of foodservice, yet in retail many people only buy frozen for a handful of product types. Another problem is that many consumers lack confidence in cooking with frozen ingredients, while shrinking households mean freezer space is shrinking, highlighting smaller packs as a development area.

Now the frozen category is seeing a rebirth in retail, with some long-established brands working on new strategies that allow them to revive and premiumize their ranges. While demand for convenience remains strong, consumers of frozen products are increasingly looking for additional attributes like healthy, natural, customisable and ethical. We look at what the major suppliers and the smaller innovators are doing.

With instore bakery sections now a familiar sight in larger convenience stores, Kate Sykes, Marketing Manager at Lantmannen Unibake UK says there’s an insatiable appetite for world flavours. his year we’ve seen the growing popularity of Scandinavian Soft Doughs and the huge success of the Portuguese Custard Tart – sales have increased a staggering 458% since 2016. Middle-Eastern tastes are also proving popular, straddling both savoury and sweet bakery. New product development plays an important role in growing the bakery category, driving people onto the fixtures to try the ‘next big thing’ – look out for more regional ‘number one’ delicacies from around the world in 2019.

“There’s plenty of scope for expansion in both sweet and savoury bakery, but core ranges remain fundamental to sales success. In the same way most retailers wouldn’t consider leaving Coca-Cola out of their drinks range, retailers should also ensure they stock the UK’s best sellers in both Danish and French pastry. The top three selling Danish Pastry SKUs deliver 62% of total category value sales. The Schulstad Bakery Solutions Maple Pecan Plait, Cinnamon Swirl and Vanilla Creme Crown are the top-sellers in the Danish pastry range, while must-stock French pastries include the All Butter Croissant, Pain au Chocolat and Pain aux Raisins. Wholesalers and cash & carry outlets should advise retailers to maximise their square footage and be brave about all-day availability: you can’t sell what isn’t on-shelf, and prioritising time to re-stock the bakery fixture will pay dividends.”

There are plenty of big themes in the bakery category which have flourished this year, says Kate Sykes, the Portuguese Custard Tart being a standout performer, the rise of seasonal bakery items, and the ever-expanding coffee-to-go market with the huge opportunity it brings to retailers up and down the country. “We believe these will continue to grow, which is great news for establishments who want to capitalise on these trends and maximise their food-to-go sales.

Thaw and serve and bake-off bakery offers all the commercial benefits of scratch cooking and ambient baked goods, with minimal operational costs. A frozen offering allows outlets to bake-off little and often throughout the day to ensure products stay fresh and appealing. This also decreases wastage as short bake-off times make it easy to manage stock levels. Frozen bakery products also allow outlets the freedom to offer a range of quality bakery products, with minimal labour requirements, and without the inconvenience of storing fresh ingredients – it’s all in one frozen box.

The hot pie category is worth £243 million in retail, says Rachel Cranston, Head of Marketing at Pukka, with frozen pies worth £97 million and Pukka accounting for 5.4% of sales. With over half of households (53%) regularly buying into pies as a British mealtime favourite, Pukka is the fastest growing pie brand in frozen, growing +157% annually.

Rachel Cranston explains: “Our outlook for the frozen pie category is positive. As a brand, we’re seeing strong growth and there’s a big opportunity for retailers to tap into it by stocking the brands and products shoppers want most. Our portfolio of frozen pies, pasties and sausage rolls plays two key roles for consumers – a satisfying snack, or a tasty, quick and convenient everyday meal, with our shortcrust pies ready to enjoy after just four minutes.”

Pukka’s portfolio features a popular range of frozen offerings including All Steak Shortcrust Pastry Micro Pie Twin Pack, Chicken & Gravy Shortcrust Pastry Micro Pie Twin Pack and Minced Beef & Onion Shortcrust Pastry Micro Pie Twin Pack. The frozen micro pies, ready after just four minutes, offer a quick and tasty option for a convenient meal for tonight.

Pukka is investing heavily in marketing with a fully integrated campaign featuring a combination of digital, social media and PR activity, as well as extensive trade promotions to support the launch of its new campaign, The People’s Pie. This includes the brand returning to TV screens across the nation, running across TV, online and VOD, with the new TV creative celebrating everyday folk and their love affair with Pukka pies.

With four out of 10 (41%) in-home pie purchases unplanned, retailers have a strong opportunity to inspire purchases by stocking pies in the meal for tonight section in frozen. 32% of pie consumers also regularly buy pies as a meal for tonight, citing the convenience, speed and ease of preparation as the drivers to purchase. Pukka also offer PMPs.

If you’re looking for frozen food products with a difference, this autumn’s Rugby World Cup has set growing numbers of Brits thinking about the sporting action in Japan, and prompted pubs and bars to look at Japanese food, including Gyoza, pronounced hard ‘g’ gee-oh-za. Jessica Davies is Communications Manager at Ajinomoto Foods Europe, Producer of Japan’s number one Gyoza brand:

“Ajinomoto offers a large range of dishes that can be cooked from frozen and served in less than five minutes, helping operators to serve authentic global flavours without specialist training or equipment. Quick and convenient to serve, locking in the taste of the fresh ingredients, frozen food options save operators vital preparation and cooking time. Frozen options that are ready to cook, keep wastage to a minimum and guarantee consistency with every serve, allowing you as an operator to run everything smoothly. Few operators would be able to run an efficient kitchen without frozen products, so having a range of exciting and on-trend frozen products is vital for catering success.”

Ajinomoto Foods Europe offer frozen Gyoza in five savoury flavours including Chicken and Vegetable, Pork, Duck, Prawn and the vegan 5 Vegetable with spinach pastry, along with a sweet flavour, Apple, to add to dessert menus, allowing operators to bring real authentic flavours and variety to menus.

The Gyoza can be cooked – pan fried, stream fried, or deep fried – from frozen in just 5 minutes. They are individually frozen so operators can use the exact required portion, reducing food waste, perfect for appetisers, canapés and sharing platters as well as upgrading Asian salads, noodle dishes and soups. Adding Gyoza to your menu is the perfect way to grow sales in between as well as during main meal times. Ajinomoto also offers frozen Chicken Kara-age and Yakitori, which are perfect appetisers and are very popular, served as small plates or on sharing platters to tap into the communal dining trend and the growing Dude Food trend.

As interest in frozen meat free products continues to grow, making frozen meat free now the UK’s third biggest retail category, Quorn is leading the way with a meat free offering that’s attracting new consumers: “We’ve developed a core range of five frozen Quorn products specifically for the convenience channel, enabling retailers to drive growth from this crucial category, whilst giving consumers everything they need to make their favourite meals quickly, easily, and meat free,” says Alex Glen, Marketing Director at Quorn Foods UK.

“Meat free is the fastest-growing category in frozen, and Quorn is perfectly placed to act as the beacon brand in-store, enabling retailers to drive sales as part of their ‘meal for tonight’ offering.”

The Quorn frozen range for convenience includes everyday favourites like Quorn Crispy Nuggets, awarded “Netmums Recommends” by the UK’s biggest parenting website, Quorn Burgers and Quorn Sausages, plus Quorn Cottage Pie and Quorn Lasagne ready meals.

“Quorn accounts for 46% of all frozen meat free sales, so it’s important that retailers and wholesalers stock products such as nuggets, burgers and sausages as these make the introduction to meat free really simple and provide meat reducers with a great-tasting dinner for tonight, without having to compromise on their favourite meals.

In January, Quorn announced it would be building on fast-growing demand for its frozen core range and strengthening its position as the leading provider of main meal, meat free alternatives with its latest NPD. Quorn’s Fishless Fillets are available in two variants – Battered Fishless Fillets with a Salt & Vinegar Batter, and Breaded Fishless Fillets with a Lemon Pepper Breadcrumb (200g; rrp £2.99). Quorn now offers the UK’s biggest range of vegan fishless frozen products.

“The introduction of the two new Fishless products means Quorn is the only UK meat free supplier to provide meat alternatives for the UK’s top 5 family meal occasions, including fish and chips, reinforcing the brand’s mainstream appeal and the No. 1 choice for consumers looking for healthy, great-tasting alternatives to their everyday favourites, while reducing their impact on our planet.

Finally, Quorn Ultimate Burger is vegan and comprises two thick cut quarter pounders with the juice of beets. Quorn Ultimate Burger makes it easy for consumers to reduce their meat consumption across key meal occasions. Quorn Ultimate Burger is a source of protein and fibre and contains no soy, unlike other plant-based burgers. The Ultimate Burger will benefit from Quorn’s £12 million brand support package this year.

Chris West, Channel Director Convenience, Birds Eye at Nomad Foods Europe comments: “Stocking the core ranges from recognisable brands like Birds Eye, Aunt Bessie’s and Goodfella’s is essential, as they are proven to help grow sales. Best-selling products need to be merchandised as part of meal bundles that a retailer can promote in store. Frozen meal bundles should include at least a main meal and a dessert to give a simple solution, but the most suitable family meal deals would have two mains, a potato side, a vegetable side and a family dessert. Fish should be included alongside chicken or red meat products as an alternative for the ‘main’ option, with fish fingers and fish fillets among the products that shoppers tend to prefer buying frozen rather than fresh, representing good, lower-risk opportunities for wholesalers to provide.

“We regularly review our core ranges to ensure space in-depot is used effectively, and recently put significant investment into our brands and product lines, particularly our fish products with the reinvention of the Captain last year. Further to this, we launched new brand campaigns for Aunt Bessie’s and Goodfella’s earlier this year, supported by quality improvements and packaging refreshes.”

The Birds Eye brand launched over 60 years ago and has provided high-quality frozen food for generations. Birds Eye’s current product line-up offers frozen ranges of fish & seafood, vegetables, chicken, meat-free alternatives, potato waffles, pies & pastries, crispy pancakes and desserts. A wide variety of gluten-free and meat-free options are available across many of the respective ranges.

Birds Eye is investing £6m in a new marketing campaign, Eat In Full Colour, centred on encouraging consumers to add more essential nutrients and vibrant colour to their plates with a delicious mix of frozen vegetables. Focusing on Steamfresh Family Favourites and Garden Peas, in two different executions, the campaign will playfully educate families to eat an array of vegetables for more flavour and texture on their plate. The campaign will run until Sunday 22nd December before continuing into 2020, spanning national TV, national out of home, social

Earlier this year, Birds Eye joined forces with Veg Power and ITV as the only brand alongside the leading grocery retailers to launch ‘Eat Them to Defeat Them,’ a campaign focused on encouraging kids to eat more vegetables. More recently, Birds Eye announced a national schools partnership to educate a new generation about the benefits and importance of eating vegetables.

Frozen pizza as a whole is now worth £415.5m and penetration is up at 68.3%. Measures such as frequency and units per trip are also on the upward trajectory. “Goodfella’s current market share is 18%, the highest for five years, says Claire Hoyle, Head of Marketing at Goodfella’s. “With over seven million households buying into the brand each year, we have a strong customer base to build on with our NPD and range updates. Goodfella’s offers something for everybody; we strive to cater for changing consumer demands, such as our new Vegan SKUs for the dietary sector, as well as ranges that recreate the takeaway experience.”

FROZEN IN FOODSERVICE

French pâtisserie remains at the forefront of sweet choices, says Olivier Ripoche, Managing Director, Brioche Pasquier UK, as finesse, intense flavour and sophistication lead the way in a dessert market that increasingly demands premium products: “Creating perfect pâtisserie is a highly skilled job and few outlets can stretch to employing a dedicated pastry chef with expertise in this area. For most, choosing a supplier of frozen, high quality, authentic French pâtisserie is the answer.”

High quality pâtisserie freezes beautifully, so chefs can be confident that in serving products made by experts like Brioche Pasquier, they are offering customers the very finest French pâtisserie. This means chefs can offer an authentic taste of France and serve a product that is high quality, on trend, cuts expenditure on ingredients and high levels of waste, and vitally, saves on time and expertise in the kitchen.

Ease of service is another selling point, with frozen products like many of the Brioche Pasquier Pâtisserie range defrosting in just 4 hours in the fridge, and only requiring the simplest finish, such as a sprinkling of icing sugar or a few berries to garnish. With health being a big preoccupation for many consumers, desserts present a conundrum. Most of us want a sweet treat, particularly when we go out to eat, but how to enjoy a dessert without feasting on high fat, high calorie puddings? The answer is to eat lighter desserts in smaller portions. This is the same principle that increasing numbers of flexitarians are applying to their meat consumption – choosing quality over quantity.

Skilled patissiers like those at Brioche Pasquier bring centuries of tradition and expertise to the kitchen, and prepare precise, sophisticated desserts that deliver intense flavour. We believe these desserts should be baked with fresh fruit, butter, eggs and other wholesome ingredients, free of hydrogenated fats and palm oil and use natural colours and flavours whenever possible. With such exquisite frozen products to hand, chefs can save on prep time in kitchens, and be sure of serving their customers a really delicious, quality product.

Some of the desserts are rich – our Entremets for example. But these are served in slim slices, bringing just a few mouthfuls of satisfaction to the diner rather than a heavy plateful – the perfect way to end a really good meal. For restauranteurs, these lighter desserts offer a way to encourage customers to enjoy a third course, rather than opting to give it a miss. Even those customers who do not wish to order a dessert, may be persuaded to try a Café Gourmande, with a macaron or petit four on the side.

In line with the rise of choux pastry with its light, airy texture and ability to contain a creamy filling, Brioche Pasquier has introduced a new choux pastry collection of petits fours. Petits Fours ‘Incontournable Pâte à Choux’ is a range of seven flavours in pure butter choux pastry, perfect as sweet canapés for the festive season

The Citron Chantilly Entremets combines fresh lemon flavours in a layering of crisp biscuit, biscuit crumble, zesty lemon filling and piped vanilla mousse with crushed vanilla seeds. High quality ingredients are used including whole lemons, 100% fresh cream, French butter and eggs from cage-free hens.