Tuesday, 31st October, 2017

Frozen Foods

The perception of frozen foods has never been better with 60% of consumers now considering frozen as equal to fresh - increasing from 53% in 2016 according to a 2017 Harris Poll. The overwhelming contributing factors to its popularity are its freshness, convenience and contribution to reducing food wastage, factors which can be applauded by both consumers and operators.

In fact the list goes on, value for money, choice of products and preservation of nutritional benefits are also high on the agendas of consumers and operators alike.  Operators choosing to benefit from the advantages of frozen foods can be reassured by this changing consumer climate, brought on by the continued creation of new and innovative frozen foods products to the foodservice sector.

Figures from Kantar Worldpanel see the frozen food market continuing to outperform the wider market, with value growth reported across almost every category.  Overall they revealed the frozen food sector is worth £8.13 billion, and the category is continuing to be driven forward by the injection of new products and changing consumer perception. 

John Hyman, Chief Executive of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), the UK’s frozen food trade association tells QuickBite; “QSRs are reliant on producing high quality food very quickly. Using frozen ingredients which are delivered pre-prepared can ensure that preparation and cooking times are significantly reduced, helping to speed up service and ease pressure on catering staff.”

“Research from the University of Salford demonstrated that using frozen can save 21% on the total cost of ingredients, staff and utilities, versus fresh and chilled, by minimising waste and saving labour.”

Hyman adds; “In recent years there has been an expansion of the frozen food products made available to the foodservice sector, which has made it easier for operators to meet changing demands – from changes in eating habits, emerging trends and on-the-go options for busy lifestyles as well as a desire for healthier products when dining out.”

Overall the BFFF establish that continued innovation and strategic development is why the frozen food industry is performing so well and they expect to see continued future growth.

Contributors

• Karen Deans, Managing Director, Field Fare
• Stuart Jackson, Director of Sales, Pan’Artisan Ltd
• Craig Brayshaw, Director of Sales, Eurilait Ltd
• John Hyman, Chief Executive, British Frozen Food Federation
• Mohammed Essa, General Manager UK & Ireland, Aviko
• Nic Townsend, Marketing Manager, UK & Ireland, Farm Frites

    Darragh Gilhawley, Head of Business Development UK, Big Al’s Foodservice


How important is Frozen food to the QSR market and why?

“The convenience of the frozen opportunity is key to its success,” agrees Darragh Gilhawley, Big Al’s Foodservice.  “Quality frozen food allows QSR operators to offer customers a consistently high quality menu, all year round. Having a well-stocked freezer means never having to disappoint a single customer.

“Many agree frozen food has become a hero product in kitchens and it offers a significant profit opportunity for operators. Not only is there an understanding that frozen food has both front of house and commercial benefits, it also means less staff time is spent on preparation.

“This means more creative energy can be spent preventing menu fatigue by introducing interesting builds. Innovative menus will drive customer retention, up weighted footfall and encourage repeat visits,” he adds. 

Karen Deans, Managing Director, Field Fare adds; “In much the same ways, it is important to the consumer that frozen food is more cost effective, in terms of transport costs, reduced packaging and in the reduced waste incurred by shelf lives, particularly relevant to our loose frozen products.”

“It is convenient, reduces orders and keeps ingredients permanently on ‘standby’.  Also with negligible food preparation involved, all frozen fruit and veg is ready to use.”

With issues surrounding food waste at the top of many operators’ agendas one key benefit of frozen food is that it can help to significantly reduce food waste, as John Hymen (BFFF) explains; “High quality, great-tasting ingredients can be purchased pre-portioned, allowing chefs to serve consistent portions while any unused food can be placed back in the freezer for use at a later date, helping to reduce food waste and save money. Frozen also has a much longer shelf life than fresh, reducing the pressure to use up ingredients in quieter periods.”

He continues; “As well as saving on food waste, frozen ingredients that come pre-portioned and prepared give time-poor chefs the ability to create meals that are innovative and on-trend with high quality ingredients that need little preparation and skill.”

“Frozen ingredients offer chefs the flexibility to create dishes with ingredients throughout the year whether they’re in season or not. Frozen ingredients such as peas and berries are frozen in season within a few hours to lock in the natural nutrients, providing chefs with the freshest products on the market.”

Stuart Jackson, Director of Sales, Pan’Artisan Ltd agrees.  He says; “Frozen food products can offer a real advantage over fresh - consistent and stable, with an extended shelf life, products are frozen at their peak, using quick-freeze technologies, which often result in ‘fresher than fresh’ results.”
“The added benefits of control over wastage and price stability are attractive qualities of using frozen and most catering operations would be hard pressed to operate efficiently without the convenience frozen products offer.”

One of the most popular frozen food products used by operators up and down the country are potatoes, and the benefits of using frozen as opposed to fresh enable consistency.  Mohammed Essa, General Manager UK & Ireland, Aviko says; “Using fresh potatoes presents a number of challenges for operators, not least that their naturally short shelf life encourages food waste.  Pre-prepared frozen potato products such as Aviko’s offer the QSR market a straightforward solution without compromising on quality.”

“We work with pre-selected growers all over Europe and the strict quality control process in place ensures only the finest potatoes are used in all products. What this means is that operators are guaranteed great quality potato products all year round - something they could not depend on when purchasing fresh potatoes.”

Nic Townsend, Marketing Manager, UK & Ireland, Farm Frites elaborates; “From our perspective working with potatoes, a huge bonus of frozen food is that it allows operators to manage seasonality.”

“Potatoes have year-round appeal on British menus and the products that we manufacture allow for a steady supply of product all year round that isn’t just reliant on seasonal, fresh raw material.  Consistency is important and frozen gives peace of mind – consistency in product supply, taste and, most importantly, cost.”

What are the latest trends in the Frozen food market?

Craig Brayshaw, Director of Sales, Eurilait Ltd says; “We’ve seen some major changes in the frozen food sector since it first appeared on our plates back in 1953; thanks to new technologies and product development, the overall impression of frozen food has changed for the better.”

“Consumer perceptions have been a challenge in the past, the sector has suffered from a somewhat negative image, comparing frozen produce to cheap or inferior quality offerings.  Recent years have witnessed progression in consumer assurance, NPD has paid off and gourmet menu options using high quality ingredients have emerged, aiding growth in the frozen food sector.”

“Our research tells us that cost cutting is an emerging trend for 2017 as consumers respond to pressures of rising retail prices,” adds Nic.  “While this poses a challenge, this trend can steer caterers in their menu pricing and towards products which offer cost efficiencies.”

“However tempting it may be to hike prices within foodservice, consumers are under more pressure with further squeezes on household incomes. At the same time, consumers’ expectations for quality don’t change simply because they are paying a lower price.”

“Frozen food offers good value as they allow for greater portion control and minimize wastage. 
Rather than portion reductions and cheaper ingredients, the challenge to operators is to sell dishes that use cost-effective, yet quality, ingredients. Recent reports show that frequency is down but that spend per head is up. Premiumisation and maximising on menu pricing are key to profitability.”

John agrees; “The last few years have seen a focus in premiumisation across the frozen food industry, with manufacturers continuing to expand their ranges in foodservice, which has resulted in high quality, innovative ingredients being readily available for caterers to use to appeal to their customers. As a result of this, benefits such as new ingredient varieties and luxury prepared options are available, making it easier for caterers to offer a varied and interesting menu without the need to upskill or sacrifice their bottom line.”

“The recent 2017 BFFF Product Awards exemplified this, with the winners showing a huge range of diversity in types of product, influences and ingredients used, with foodservice winners including a Cooked Quinoa and Veg Mix (BidFood), Smoky Paprika Double Bone Beef Rib (KK Fine Foods Plc) and Bellini Sorbet (DiSotto Foods).”

“As well as highlighting the diversity and premiumisation within the industry the awards highlighted how manufacturers are becoming more innovative in the way they develop premium products for their target markets. The Best New Main Course winner, Crown Foods’ MSC Gluten Free Bubble Coated Salmon Fillet for example was developed with an innovative ‘bubble coating’, a lighter, healthier alternative to traditional batter. The product is also Gluten Free, allowing buyers to choose a high quality, tasty product that will also fit with customers that need free-from options that taste as good as they look.”

“Keeping up with food trends is key to attracting new and returning customers. Exotic flavours from around the world continue to be driving the industry, as diners want an extra special dining experience that they can’t create at home. The latest frozen products allow caterers to keep abreast of current consumer trends. Popular ingredients such as avocados and sweet potatoes are available frozen in many different ways from sliced and halved avocados to sweet potato mash, fries and wedges. These growing ranges are allowing caterers to expand their menu range for a variety of different occasions from smashed avocado on toast for brunch to sweet potato fries on a sharing board,” concludes John.

Continental and ethnic breads are also trending and the speciality bread and bakery sector is flourishing as today’s consumers seek more choice.  They are more adventurous in what they will try and are generally more educated in terms of provenance, quality ingredients and authenticity.

Nic explains; “Certain staple items, such as bakery produce, can require specific kitchen skills and can be time consuming to produce from scratch, so it makes sense to stock frozen produce, which will aid busy operators and work alongside fresh produce to provide nutritionally balanced options.”

“As a producer of frozen, full and part-baked dough-based products, Pan ‘Artisan has experienced great success from their range of frozen dough balls, pizza bases and speciality breads.  Our products offer convenience and reassurance to the operator, providing consistent quality dough-based goods for the foodservice sector.”

What does the future hold for Frozen foods in terms of product development for foodservice clients?

For the BFFF innovation is key for continued growth, something that the industry excels in.  John says; “As consumers’ palates and needs continue to evolve, innovation is allowing the frozen food sector to continue to meet them with premium, desirable NPD available for foodservice outlets.”

“In an increasingly competitive space, caterers must be up to date with the latest trends in eating out. Diners are looking for choice and innovation which in turn puts significant pressure on chefs and caterers who need to be aware of keeping preparation times, cost and waste to a minimum, which is where frozen can offer significant results.”

“For caterers, innovation is essential to bringing customers through the door, and the more products that become available from frozen the better it is for the fast-paced QSR market. For example during busy periods such as Christmas chefs rely on frozen ingredients that are new and exciting that can be quickly prepared and sent out to the customers.”

“Big Al’s innovative Italian Pizza Twists are well suited to time-precious consumers, adding relevance to the on-trend street food craze,” says Darragh.  “The delicious authentic Italian stone-oven baked Pizza Twists are ready in 60 seconds from frozen and come with consumer ready packaging sleeves. Additionally, operators can now tap into the morning trade with Big Al’s recently launched Breakfast Twist, the perfect all day breakfast option for any outlet.

“The foodservice market saw a 7% increase in consumers eating out during breakfast NPD Q3 report 2016), and Big Al’s stone baked breakfast twists are a delicious innovative option, as frozen food is often fresher than its unfrozen counterparts, locking in vital nutrients vitamins and minerals.”

“We are noticing consumer trends in international flavours for ready meals, including Italian, French and particularly Mexican,” explains Karen.  “Gluten free and free from ranges (e.g. vegan, dairy free etc) are all doing well too, such that products are now being ‘made without’ but not necessarily overtly marketed as such.  This way they are not a deterrent to those that aren’t this way inclined, but will be attractive to those that are intolerant / lifestyle choosers; and will look closely at ingredients to find what they are looking for.”

“As time moves on and consumer attitudes towards frozen food changes, I think we will see a resurgence in the acceptance of frozen food,” adds Nic.  “There is more understanding and awareness among the trade and consumers now. We know that the ‘goodness’ in food isn’t compromised by freezing and that in many cases it actually preserves nutrients to freeze a product.”

“Products like our Ultimate Chip will continue to see a popularity rise in the foodservice sector. These are products which demonstrate a premium, quality version of a food item that chefs would usually prep themselves. The time saving message is strong and if they have confidence in the product it is a win: win situation.”

 

Biffa