Just as location, location, location is a key factor in the real estate market so, too, the location of chilled foods, usually at front of store, is critical to exploit the fast-growing snackers and grazers’ market. Victoria Southern, Kerry Foods marketing and category director, says the company has spotted consumer snacking as a growing trend, with 37% of people replacing a meal with a snack at least once a week. However, they have noticed a shift in the type of specs that consumers want with an explosion of healthy alternatives being launched. Wholesalers who are able to offer a wide range of chilled items are therefore in a better position to maximise sales and improve customer loyalty.

Only half of British people are eating the recommended five items of fruit and vegetables a day, says Kerry Foods, so healthy snack options such as kale chips, rice cakes, protein bars and energy balls can play a vital role in helping the nation make healthier choices. Looking more closely at healthier snacking, 76% of people are looking for more protein, so to satisfy demand Fridge Raiders have created a range of protein snacking options, including chicken bites and pork.

Kerry Foods says shoppers are likely to look for quick and easy options, so stacking snacks in the chilled section at front of store can help immediately draw attention to these consumers and create a positive experience. Currently, however, the front-of-store section is still dominated by sandwiches and lunchtime options. “What we are seeing,” says Kerry’s Victoria Southern, “is that retailers who are effectively capitalising on this snacking trend are giving snacks a prominent space in front-of-store chilled section.”

The chilled food section is likely to grow owing to other trends, suggests General Mills. Kat Jones, the company’s marketing manager, says: “We are seeing the appetite for indulging ice cream continue to grow as more shoppers are buying more often and spending more when they come into the store. As a result, the overall category, worth £1.1bn, is growing by £52.2m on 2018. To exploit this, the company has launched the Gelato and Barista collections. Its eye-catching Haagen Dasz range has obsessed over exceptional real ingredients, which exclude stabilizers, artificial colourings and flavourings and produces lower air content than many other producers in the market.

Aware of the health issue, the company is meeting the demand for lower calorie ice cream. “In the last two years we have reduced the amount of sugar across our Petit Filous and Frubes product ranges and unlike other products on the market, Petit Filous is fortified with vitamin D.

Another strongly-rising trend picked up by Glebe Foods, says its director, Rebecca Raynor, is that according to a recent report almost a quarter of Brits are now consuming plant-based alternatives to milk as the popularity of the vegetarian and plant-centred diets continue to rise. “It’s clear that adopting a vegan or vegetarian life style is now becoming mainstream and is no longer a niche market,” she says. As such, operators must adapt their dairy-free offerings accordingly to cater for the ever-increasing consumer demand for plant-based alternatives.

Alpro has noticed that one tactic that is working well for them in the convenience retail sector is when the retailers place their popular UHT products in the chiller, which meant that part of their portfolio grew 40%. When shoppers get what they know and trust and is really chilled for them there is less risk of waste for the retailers because of the long shelf life. Retail sales of plant-based food and drink are now worth £396m and one in three households are regularly buying, explains the company.

Muller Yogurt and Desserts is taking the food health issue very seriously. It is targeting a 25% sugar reduction. “We hope not only to meet Public Health England’s voluntary targets but exceed them,” says Bergen Merey, the company MD. Like others mentioned here he believes that for retailers to maximise sales the key is to ensure that there are a range of chilled offerings, particularly in the areas driving growth, like healthier and meat-free alternatives. Muller has a £100m programme aimed to transform the fresh milk business. Part of that is the recent £50m Telford expansion which gives them a 500m pot capacity, a major step in reducing the UK’s dependence on imported products and which gives them a significant competitive advantage.

One favourite that never seems to dim is the voracious appetite for the hot pie category, currently worth about £243m. More than half of British households are buying into this favourite, of which the Pukka Pie Company has a £36m share and whose brand is growing by 17%. Yet Pukka is not resting on its laurels. Rachel Cranston, the company’s head of marketing, explains: “Our outlook for the pie category throughout the year and looking into the future is positive. Pukka recently tapped into the fast-growing vegetarian opportunity with the introduction of its new veggie and potato pie.

The nation’s biggest grocery pizza brand from Dr Oetker will soon be available in the chilled category as Chicago Town, with three flavours. The move comes after extensive research into the customer journey and experience revealed a gap in the market for a chilled, American-style pizza as opposed to the more traditional Italian. Out of the 36 sub categories, chilled pizza has a substantial value and ranks in the top 10.

Shoppers and consumers’ life styles are busier than ever, which is fuelling the convenience trend in the UK, says Polly Davies, category controller at Florette UK. The health agenda is also positively impacting category performance, and prepared produce offers the shoppers the holy grail of healthy convenience. With one third of all consumption occasions now being had for health reasons it is clear to see why. Every minute over 1,100 packs of leafy salad are sold in the UK, which demonstrates the popularity of convenience and healthy eating.

Tapping into macro trends of health and convenience will be important to stay ahead of the curve, says Polly. Supplying a minimum, credible range of top sellers to cater for multiple shopper and retailer needs will be powerful. Playing an indispensable role in that is the chiller industry.

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