Frozen food: how this category has batted away its bad image

Food Spark talks to the founder of frozen veg company Strong Roots about how frozen became this year's best performing food and drink category.

14 June 2018
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Frozen food has achieved a dramatic turnaround in the last year, changing consumer’s perceptions that products are bland and don’t have equal nutritional value as its chilled, fresh or ambient counterparts.

It’s this year’s best performing category in food and drink, with its value increasing by 6.1% to take UK sales to £6.1bn, with growth in each subcategory from ready-meals to vegetables and desserts, according to Kantar Worldpanel.

A large driving force behind this success story is a more premium offering, as average prices have risen 4.2%, according to Kantar data. But the sector has also managed to attract 320,000 new shoppers.

The top five performing categories include ice cream, fish, potatoes, other meat and vegetables.

Neil Nugent, head of development at Iceland, has declared that the future of food is frozen. It was the potential for decreasing food waste and ensuring freshness that had him singing the praises of frozen ingredients and meals in an interview with Food Spark last year.

Here, we talk to Strong Roots founder Samuel Dennigan, who spotted a gap in the market in 2015 for premium frozen vegetables for the more adventurous, quality-conscious consumers. He opened up about the changing image of frozen food and what the future could hold.

 

Why do you think frozen food has grown in popularity, particularly among millennials?

Convenience is key for the millennial cohort. Strong Roots products require no prep – yet they do not compromise on taste or quality. Millennials are known for being time poor and frozen food fills that gap for them. They are spending 9% more per shopping trip on frozen foods than any other group.

Why do you think there are more premium offers in the frozen food section now?

Consumers are more discerning than ever, they want to know what is in their food and exactly what they are buying. The frozen category has undergone a ‘rebrand’ and consumers no longer link the section to the horsemeat scandal and generic, beige, unhealthy foods. Innovation has been the key driver. Consumers are willing to spend slightly more for better quality products to nourish them.

What trends do you see influencing frozen food in the future?

It’s impossible to ignore the fact that more and more people are looking to reduce their meat consumption, be it switching to a plant-based diet or simply cutting back on meat products. The physical space given to ‘meat-free’ and ‘free-from’ sub-segments within each of our retailers is increasing every year.

What innovations do you think can be used to develop new frozen food products?

The consumer drives how we innovate. What do they want? What are current tastes and how are we addressing that? It’s easy to get tied into technology or process, but that’s what went wrong in frozen before. First, does it taste great? Then we can apply the technology and innovation. 

What new products is Strong Roots looking to launch to meet consumer demands?

More roots. We will be concentrating on experience, occasion and developing even more great plant-based food. Our goals are to bring environmentally responsible and plant-based ingredients even further into the fold. So, our options are limitless and the consumer is deciding for us. We’re even looking to the ocean for inspiration. 

Iceland's head of development Neil Nugent has said the future is frozen. What are your thoughts?

When products are frozen at source via individual quick freezing, they retain the same, if not more nutrients and flavour than the fresh alternative. And as a category, we need to hammer home that key benefit to all shoppers at every opportunity.

In terms of food waste, frozen food is an unsung hero. The amount of food wasted globally per year is startling and something we all contribute to. A simple action is preparing and freezing meals in advance or purchasing frozen food. Reaching into the back of our fridge to find mouldy vegetables or wilted salad is something we can all relate to. Simply put, we buy more than we need. With frozen food we do not have this issue; we can cook the amount we want, when we want it.

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