Chilled trends: Frozen foods surge during COVID-19, suppliers highlight opportunities in “segment of the future”
13 Jul 2020 --- Frozen food sales have surged amid the COVID-19 lockdown period as consumers frequently turn to the freezer for a variety of meal occasions. Players in the space are tapping into new opportunities in functional ingredients, ready meal solutions and color-preserving clean label agents. Meanwhile, sustainability in frozen foods is elevated through new eco-centric packaging models. FoodIngredientsFirst catches up with key suppliers to explore these trends in detail.
“The heartland for frozen ready meals is the ‘meal for one,’ which is the core sales area across cuisines. We will continue to innovate through cuisine and health platforms in meals for one, and additionally see high potential for incremental growth through plant protein and vegetable-based meal offerings. The frozen category has a great advantage of minimal food waste risk, so combining this with our sustainable packaging strategy really increases the relevance and importance of the category,” says Ian Garrett, Commercial Sales Director at Kerry Foods.
Working closely with its supplier partner, Kerry Foods pegs its brand as the first to market in Frozen Ready Meals with the Frost Evolve fully recyclable tray. “In 2020, we will convert circa 6,000 metric tons (MT) of plastic and cardboard from landfill to closed loop recycling. We are continuing to work toward full packaging recyclability within the category and are closing in on our target as 94 percent of the packaging in our frozen ready meals business is recyclable,” he adds.
“The frozen category was one of the fastest growing categories in 2019 and has been a real go-to category among consumers during the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown period, bringing in new shoppers and increasing spending from current consumers. There are an increasing number of meal occasions being satisfied from the freezer, and this has resulted in shoppers accelerating their engagement with frozen foods.”
“At Kerry Foods we are hugely excited about the opportunities in the frozen category, specifically within our frozen ready meal business. Strong double-digit growth has been seen in frozen meat, meal components and vegetable accompaniments. Family freezer favorites, such as pizza, have also performed well. Within frozen ready meals we have seen a 26 percent growth in family and together-time meal occasions.”
Garrett also spotlights the significant opportunities to grow with bigger format family meals and details how the company will be working through brand and customer label ranges to bring excitement and choice to this area. “Scratch and component cooking are an accelerating part of the category, and the opportunity to innovate here through taste, cuisine and format is irresistible to us,” he concludes.
Honing in on health and convenience
Helena Gheysen, Marketing Manager of the Frozen Division at Belgium-headquartered fruits and vegetables supplier Greenyard, comments: “A lot is happening in the last few years in the frozen aisle for consumers. We see a lot of focus on healthy frozen convenience products, vegetarian and vegan meals, one-person solution and steam bags, for example. We are focusing now on a pulses range, which is also rather new in the frozen aisle.”
“Frozen chickpeas, black and kidney beans, and edamame are convenient ready-to-use solutions in demand, with excellent preservation of the nutrients. Also, cauliflower rice is a new and interesting product in the frozen variety.”
In terms of prominent consumer trends gaining attention in the frozen foods category, Gheysen notes an increased focus on health, which details opportunities for healthier alternatives to staples of pizza and ice cream. “There is a trend of vegan and vegetarian meals in fresh as well as in the frozen category, which calls for better preservation without additives. The convenience trend also pushes forward the frozen category, which is inherently convenient (pre-cut, blanched if necessary, portionable, just heat and ready-to-prepare).”
Within the “Sustain Domain,” ranked the third Top Trend for 2020 by Innova Market Insights, Gheysen also highlights a rising focus on sustainable freezer packaging, alongside maturing demand for fully organic products. As the COVID-19 pandemic spurs consumer stockpiling and the need for storage space for suppliers, she notes a spike in the sales of freezers at large.
“We see a wider range in frozen products in the US and UK, which are also the regions where trends start in general. These ranges are mostly depending on availability of frozen storage and user behavior of the past. However, we notice an increase in the use in every region as it is the ‘segment of the future.’ We see a lot of focus on the trends we as a company or as a sector are good at, such as health and convenience, so it’s promising.”
In terms of opportunities for expansion, Gheysen notes: “The standard frozen vegetables usage stagnates a bit (in terms of known products as peas, spinach and carrots), but we see a big increase in the fruit range over the last few years and also in healthy convenience meals and meal solutions. We focus on those last two segments, because we see the most growth potential in those areas, which have the most room for original delicious new products.”
Novel freezer fare
Also commenting on the effects of the pandemic on consumption patterns leaning toward nutritionally dense foods, Lars Bründel, Key Account Manager Supply at Bösch Boden Spies, tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “We noticed a high demand of frozen fruits in particular in the last three to four months. Consumers want to have healthy foods that are easy to prepare at home.”
“Frozen fruits are a convenient item for crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. You need to stay at home, not move too much and still want to eat healthy. We do not notice any particular new fruits or items in freezer shelves. ‘Free from’ additives is a trend, but this is rather related to frozen ready meals and other food preparations.”
Bründel highlights that movers in the space are actively seeking out new and functional fruits and ingredient solutions to elevate the frozen category. “We are constantly scanning the globe for new fruits and agricultural products. Translated into the frozen fruit world that means we are looking for new berries that combine health aspects, functionality and, of course, taste.”
“Currently we are promoting the Canadian Honeyberry, a great fruit that meets all aforementioned aspects and even combines them in a unique way. The berry has a fantastic taste, lots of health benefits such as high Cyanidin-3-O-gluciside (C3G) that is cardio-protective and anti-diabetic. Its functional values like color stability make the Canadian Honeyberry (also known as Haskap) one of the most interesting new stars at the horizon. It is so new that it was only registered as “Novel Food” in the EU at the end of December 2018,” he highlights.
By Benjamin Ferrer
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.