Frozen food sector predicts bright future as young buyers flock to aisles

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Source: BFFF
Source: BFFF

Related tags frozen frozen aisle

The frozen food revival will thrive post-pandemic as it offers a greater array of indulgent items and as consumers seek solutions to the problem of food waste, says the British Frozen Food Federation.

A new report​ from the body says UK consumers are buying more frozen food than ever before.

Last year shoppers spent an extra £872m on everything from frozen avocado to ice cream: making frozen the fastest growing food category, second only to alcohol, it claimed.

The value of frozen food sold in the UK stores is now worth £7.21bn with a year-on-year growth of 13.8%, compared to total grocery, which grew at 11.3%, and fresh and chilled at 9.3%, the report, which brings together research from Kantar Worldpanel and IGD, revealed.

It added that Generation Z buyers (those born between 1997 and 2012) are 23% more likely to eat frozen food as they are attracted by the convenience and flavour of the growing range of vegetarian and vegan products on offer.

“At the onset of the pandemic we saw a huge increase in the demand for online grocery shopping, triggering shopping habits we think will remain long after lockdown lifts,”​ said BFFF chief executive, Richard Harrow. “March 2020 was a record month for online penetration, which increased by 140,000 households, and further research in October found only 26% of shoppers stated they intend to revert to pre-pandemic shopping habits, with 55% saying they will never shop in the same way again. This means, potentially, 74% of shoppers will maintain their online shopping habits long-term.”

The category has also benefited from the trend of people doing bigger shops less frequently, he said. “Consumers are also looking for convenient products that will not spoil between shopping trips. This plays to the strengths of the frozen category and means we’re optimistic frozen will continue to grow its share of online purchases.”

Harris told FoodNavigator that shoppers will be attracted to frozen food as solution to reducing food waste. “More people are asking what they can do to reduce food waste,”​ he said. Frozen food, which stays fresh for longer, allows consumers to use only what they need, and which can be produced more efficiently in longer runs by manufacturers, is therefore an ‘ideal category’.

‘Sexing up’ the frozen category

Meanwhile, NPD is transforming a traditionally mundane sector into an exciting mix of indulgence, convenience and value, he told us.  

Examples include the trio of frozen pizzas created by Zizzi. These use ‘premium restaurant-quality ingredients’, according to the restaurant chain, and were developed in response to an increase in demand for in-home occasions because of lockdown in the UK.

Other examples include BirdsEye’s Green Cuisine, designed to offer consumers new and exciting ways to enjoy meat-free meals, and Strong Roots, which spotted a gap in the market for good quality frozen fruit and vegetables. Itsu has also recently launched the UK’s very first frozen ‘vegan meat’ gyoza dumpling.  

"You're seeing the category viewed quite differently by people,”​ said Harrow. “There's lots of different opportunities for people to come into the category and find a niche.

"There’s a lot of stuff around plant based which is right on trend for consumers and we're a pretty additive free category because freezing is a method of preservation.

“I think we’ll see more things like meat free, indulgent ready meals and frozen breakfast bakery. We're beginning to lose this image of frozen equals poor quality.” 

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