Consumers hunt out taste in freezer cabinet, FDF

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food preservation

UK consumers are continuing to buy more branded frozen food, according to a new survey that indicates a 9 per cent upswing in frozen food purchasing this year – and many are swayed by taste and quality factors.

There has been attention to the market potential for frozen foods this year as shoppers have sought to feed their households as cheaply as possible in the credit crunch – and many frozen foods are cheaper than ambient or chilled equivalents.

However a new survey commissioned by the Food and Drink Federation’s Frozen Foods Group has found that taste and quality are flagged up as the leading factors driving purchasing decisions.

The new survey, conducted online between 15 and 19 June, involved 533 adults responsible for their household's shopping. Of these, 9 per cent said they were purchasing more branded frozen foods than six months ago, and 10 per cent said they were eating more frozen foods.

Altogether, some 81 per cent said the taste of products influence their decision to buy, and 78 per cent cited quality.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents said good value was an influencing factor; 48 per cent said they bought more in bulk if there were good promotional offers.

Repeat survey

A first wave of research on the same topic was conducted in early 2009, and in that case too taste and quality were seen to be important factors.

But a spokesperson for the FDF told that on that occasion questions were phrased to place more emphasis on the credit crunch, as it was dominating consumer consciousness at that time.

Norman Soutar, chairman of the Frozen Food Group, said the research reinforces what manufacturers have suspected for a while: “Consumers are shopping smarter – they know that the freezing process locks in nutrients and vitamins and that the versatility of frozen food means it is easily incorporated into making great tasting meals.”

Freshness and nature

The industry group highlighted several examples of products that play up the freshness and non-artificial nature of their ingredients – in keeping with broader trends across the industry as a while.

For instance, Birds Eye freezes all its peas within 2.5 hours of picking, which ‘locks in’ the taste and vitamin C content. Its fish, too, is frozen close to source.

Similarly, McCain’s washes, peels and cuts its potatoes for fries within a strict 90 minute time frame; and it has reduced saturated fat by 72 per cent across its portfolio by using sunflower oil.

And Aunt Bessie only makes its frozen parsnips around parsnip harvest time, so it can be sure the products are of the highest quality. It also uses “store cupboard ingredients”​ where possible, and avoids ingredients deemed artificial.

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