Demand for Veggies Remains Strong

While frozen fruit and vegetables have long been available in the frozen food market, they have recently witnessed a surge in popularity thanks to a number of factors. Frozen herbs have also seen a rise in demand, and this trend shows no signs of abating.

The Netherlands’ Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) data shows that retail and foodservice make up the largest user base for Europe’s frozen vegetables. Retailers occasionally make direct purchases from exporters in developing nations, but most of the time they receive their supplies through middlemen, such as packing firms that put the products in their final packaging. Frozen vegetable combinations can either be made in the nation that is supplying them, or they can be blended by a packing company after importation.

According to CBI, the retail industry has recently polarized, with a move toward either the bargain or high-end segments. The retail food sector in Europe is characterized by consolidation, market saturation, ferocious competition, and cheap prices. Although frozen vegetable retail sales over the internet currently represent a small portion of the market, this is expected to change soon. Specialized importers typically provide the foodservice channel (hotels, restaurants, and catering enterprises) (wholesalers). When it comes to the packaging of frozen vegetables, the foodservice industry frequently has distinct needs than bulk or retail packaging (e.g. weights ranging from 1 kg to 5 kg). The frozen vegetables that are delivered to the food service industry also frequently go through additional preparation, such as roasting or grilling or the addition of spices or other additives. Some wholesale businesses, like the British Kiril Mischeff and the German Frosta Food Service, specialize in supplying the food service industries.

Compared to the retail and restaurant categories, frozen vegetable sales are lower in the food processing sector. The prepared food industry is the primary consumer of frozen vegetables in the food processing sector. The primary market for frozen mushrooms is the frozen pizza sector. There is increasing potential for suppliers of frozen vegetables due to the range of frozen prepared foods available in Europe. The market of frozen prepared meals is seeing increased sales of frozen veggies as a result of the rising trend of vegan food consumption. Additionally, frozen purees of vegetables are being sold more frequently for use in soups, smoothies, and infant food. In smaller amounts, frozen veggies are also used in the food ingredient sector to make food additives. Innovative goods developed with frozen veggies include vegetable snacks like kale chips and sweet potato fries.

Belgium Leads the Way

More than 25% of all frozen vegetable production in Europe comes from Belgium. Furthermore, over 90% of Belgium’s entire production is exported. According to CBI, most of the East and West Flanders regions are home to the country’s frozen vegetable growers, who mostly specialize in the production of carrots, beans, spinach, peas, cauliflower, and sprouts. Since 2014, Belgium’s frozen vegetable exports have grown by more than 120,000 tons, reaching 1.4 million tons in 2018. This was sold to other European nations more than 80%. Around 40% of the frozen vegetables exported from Belgium are not domestically produced; rather, they are imported from other nations, primarily European ones. Belgium is a significant importer of frozen vegetables. However, since many major producers of frozen vegetables have subsidiaries in other European nations, a large portion of what is imported is produced by Belgian businesses.

Germany and France, which import 50% of all Belgian exports to Europe, are the top two export destinations for frozen veggies to Europe. Frozen vegetable blends are Belgium’s (the largest export in the world) forte. In Europe, these combinations are offered as own-brand items or customized to the demands of the retail and restaurant sectors. The top export market outside of Europe is the United States, with frozen brussels sprouts as the primary export. Next in line, over the past five years, Spain has boosted its frozen vegetable exports by more than 160 tons. From 488 thousand tons in 2014 to 650 thousand tons in 2018, exports grew. France is the top export destination for more than 80% of these frozen veggies, followed by other European nations. Frozen broccoli, sweet peppers, and peas are the top exports. The United States and Algeria are the top export destinations outside of Europe, with frozen broccoli being the primary export (mainly frozen peas). To promote the industry’s interests in national and international organizations, the top eight Spanish manufacturers of frozen vegetables created the Spanish Association of Manufacturers of Frozen Vegetables (ASEVEC) in 1985. According to ASEVEC, the Spanish frozen vegetable business produced 786,000 tons of frozen vegetables in 2018—nearly 11,000 tons more than in 2017—maintaining the current growth trend. 20% of the total volume of frozen veggies is made up of broccoli.

In 2018, Spain exported 71% of its frozen broccoli, 80% of its frozen sweet peppers, and 50% of its frozen pea production. Although frozen veggies are produced throughout Spain, Navarre in the north leads the way with about 30% of the country’s total production. Murcia in the southeast and Andalusia in the south follow with 20% and 12% of the total production, respectively. The third-largest exporter of frozen vegetables in Europe is Poland. From 420,000 tons in 2014 to more than 500,000 tons in 2018, frozen vegetable exports surged. Around 50% of all frozen vegetables produced in and exported from Poland are frozen onions, cauliflower, carrots, and leguminous vegetables. Frozen tomatoes, broccoli, sweet corn, and sweet peppers are the exports that are expanding the quickest. The majority of production—roughly 70%—is exported, with Germany accounting for 24% of those exports, followed by Belgium and Belarus. Despite being one of Europe’s top producers of vegetables, the Netherlands primarily concentrates on the supply of fresh veggies. Even still, frozen vegetable exports increased and reached 300,000 tons in 2018. Germany is the top export destination, followed by Belgium.

To read the entire article, please access your complimentary e-copy of Frozen Food Europe September-October, 2022 issue here.