Despite economic uncertainty, the U.K. frozen food market, including vegetables, continues to grow, with the most recent Kantar Worldpanel statistics for showing a 0.5% volume growth alongside a value growth of 0.1% with a total market value of GBP5.71bn, with continuous growth predicted for 2017.
While frozen fruit and vegetables have been around for years, recent months have seen an emergence in more exotic products being brought to the market, as well as a greater awareness of the products currently available. We put this down to a number of factors including health and wellbeing trends as well as the recent fresh vegetable shortage.
The increasing demand from consumers for healthy alternatives both when eating out and preparing food at home has seen the industry put a lot of work into developing NPD to make it easy for consumers to have the great taste and convenience they want, when they want it and many of these are innovative frozen vegetable products.
Retailers and wholesalers in the UK were recently hit with a fresh produce shortage as a result of poor weather in Spain and Italy. Many shoppers were faced with empty shelves and signs displaying ‘product unavailable’ warnings. Fresh courgettes and spinach in particular were affected with wholesalers seeing the price per kilo increasing dramatically.
However, frozen stock of these products remained plentiful throughout the situation, which was named on twitter as #courgettecrisis. Not only were they readily available for consumers, the stock also remained at a consistent price point unlike the fresh alternatives, which fluctuated due to demand. This is because frozen produce is always frozen at its peak and offers a much longer shelf life so can be much more resistant to weather changes and fluctuations in supply.
The shortage in fresh produce created an opportunity for frozen to capitalize on, as shoppers sought a solution in the freezer aisles adding frozen courgettes and spinach amongst others, to their baskets in big numbers. During this time, people who might not usually buy frozen produce were introduced to new products and possibilities – tapping into a new demographic for frozen. Our hope, now that the crisis is over, is that having tried the products they might not have previously known were available frozen, customers will return to the freezer aisles, increasing footfall, awareness and sales in the long run.
Recently, research was undertaken by Chester University and Leatherhead which examined the effects of freezing on antioxidant levels in fruit and vegetables. A wide selection of fruit and vegetables were tested, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, carrots and blueberries. The study found that frozen fruit and vegetables can have higher levels of antioxidants than fresh, as freezing acts as nature’s preservative to lock in nutrients at their peak. This means that consumers can be confident when heading to their freezer, that they are feeding their family the best quality produce, as well as receiving benefits such as price, convenience and waste reduction.
In the limelight
Popular food trends have seen many frozen vegetables put into the limelight in recent months as, potato products saw positive performances YOY with a value growth of 3.5% in volume. In addition, the performance of sweet potato products in particular has seen a staggering rise, with sales up 120% YOY, with further innovation and distribution increases anticipated in 2017 and beyond (source, Kantar).
Popular influential health bloggers, vloggers and Instagram stars have increased the popularity of sweet potatoes, by including it as a healthy diet staple. It’s low in sodium and saturated fats and a good source of fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium – making it an ideal choice for health-inspired meals. The frozen product comes in a range of forms; jacket potatoes, mash, wedges, chips and diced variants making it a great choice for quick and easy meals.
Food prep and portion control is also becoming increasingly popular with a wider market. Frozen food is being opened up to a new demographic of students and people in their early 20s who want to follow these new health trends, but want it now. Pre-prepared and often pre-portioned fruit and vegetables that can be cooked from frozen gives them the best of both words. So they can prepare tasty and nutritious meals without much effort or cooking ability. Frozen vegetables are a choice popular for both wholesalers and consumers, the options are endless and it offers restaurants and households healthy alternatives and products at peak condition, packed full of flavor and nutrients. We expect frozen vegetables to grow in both popularity and sales as consumers continue to aim for a healthy lifestyle and as food waste reduction stays in the media spotlight.