Promote positive image of frozen foods, urges Leatherhead

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food preservation, Leatherhead

Industry needs to step up efforts to counter stigma associated with
frozen food compared with chilled or 'fresh' produce, says
Leatherhead. Although consumers are hearing the message, they are
not yet buying into it.

There have been some high profile advertising efforts to draw consumers to frozen foods - most notably by Bird's Eye, whose campaigns communicate on natural goodness and no need for additives. But UK-based Leatherhead concluded that stigma and snobbery still tarnish the frozen foods sector after conducting a series of qualitative focus groups in the UK on consumer opinion, understanding, and media presentation of the category. Principal consumer analyst Nicole Patterson told FoodNavigator.com: "There is a general assumption that it is better to freeze a chilled or fresh product than to buy frozen."​ In fact, chilled foods may contain more preservatives than their frozen counterparts so as to have a longer life in the refrigerator cabinet. Patterson said that consumers repeatedly and spontaneously recalled the Bird's Eye advertisments, which featured a 'vegetable in the ice-cube' imagery and message 'freshness locked in … no preservatives​'. "But there is an almost irrational barrier - 'Psychologically I feel better if I've eaten fresh even though I've seen the [Birds Eye] advert',"​ she said. While she praised Bird's Eye's efforts and said they are clearly making headway, more brands are needed to reinforce a positive message for frozen food to make consumers not just believe in it, but to actually buy it. Moreover, trust and brand loyalty seems to have a part to play. Most of the consumers said that if other big brands they trust were to branch out into frozen foods, they may be persuaded to give them a try. Leatherhead's findings are presented in a report called Chilled vs Frozen Consumer Research.​ Leatherhead's research in this area comes on the heals of a market report published by Key Note last month, in which it said retail sales of frozen foods in the UK amounted to £5.38bn in 2006, a fall of 0.5 per cent on 2005. Between 2002 and 2006, the market increased by 2.6 per cent. Key Note said that frozen foods generally have a cheap image, which is perpetuated by buy-one-get-one-free promotions are retailer level. At a time when many food companies are adopting a value-added approach, particularly when it comes to foods positioned for health and wellness, this undermines the image of the market. Some manufacturers are already taking steps to counter this, it says, by introducing higher quality ranges of frozen foods and reviewing their pricing structure. Another measure could be improving the health image of products, for instance by removing additives and reducing fat, sugar and salt.

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