Frozen foods industry to focus on risk, sustainability
foot and mouth this year, but more works needs to be done on
communication, says the British Frozen Foods Federation (BFFF).
In the federation's annual round-up, president Stephen Waugh highlighted "the trauma of foot and mouth disease" and "the emergence of bluetongue disease" as significant issues the food industry has had to come with in the last year. But Waugh said that although previous outbreaks have meant movement of animals is much better controlled, communication is still lacking. "We are still very poor at communicating to Environmental Health Officers, to processors, producers and the supply chain in general about at risk food products, particularly those to be exported," he said. In a bid to address this, the BFFF has said it is working with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) to present suggestions as to how the food industry can prepare itself even better, should outbreaks occur in the future. Despite the disease issues, the BFF drew attention to figures from TNS, which showed the retail frozen food market in the UK to have grown by some 3.4 per cent to £4.6bn this year. Food service is seen as a particular area of focus for the frozen side of the industry. Another key topic this year has been sustainability. The BFF says it has developed a strategy for the frozen foods industry, and is to work with independent, objective bodies to develop "meaningful and reliable data on the impacts of frozen food within the climate change debate." In October, it joined forces with the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to hold a member seminar on ways to reduce packaging. The idea was to inform members about what other companies are doing (retailers, producers and design experts), and to give a push to initiatives to reduce packaging. Another seminar is planned in the light of recent environmental audits of members conducted by Envirowise, which will focus on common issues. The BFFF is also working with the carbon Trust on a similar audit programme, and is seeking funds to pro-actively assist members in ways they can reduce energy costs. Some other opportunities may be available with the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP) to address waste streams. These could involve inding new avenues for waste disposal, cheaper options or receiving better value for the sale of waste. One important area of work for the federation has been to address consumer perception of frozen foods. In general, consumers tend to think of frozen foods as being inferior to fresh produce. In fact, big food companies argue that the freezing process means fewer preservatives may need to be used, when compared to products with 'fresh' appeal sold from the refrigerator section of retail stores. At the end of August Leatherhead, after conducting a series of consumer focus groups, advised industry tostep up efforts to counter stigma associated with frozen food compared with chilled or 'fresh' produce. It said that although consumers are hearing the message, they are not yet buying into it. While agreeing that coordinated efforts are still called for, the BFFF praised efforts by retailers to promote the sector. It noted that Tesco is promoting frozen more actively, " a particularly encouraging sign", and said Iceland is emerging as "a force to be reckoned with". Asda, Morrison and Sainsbury's all received a mention for their contribution, but Waitrose was praised for its "first ever advert for frozen foods extolling the virtues of frozen peas and their heritage".