Just like most frozen food segments, the frozen fruit market has had an up-and-down year, gaining ground in awareness and retail sales, but feeling the impact of foodservice closures. In this exclusive article, based on a discussion with Bert Synaeve, sales director at Dirafrost, you can find out more about the company’s strategy of taking some of the products into retail, the business areas Dirafrost will be focusing on this year, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its innovative portfolio.
Responding to trends and market needs
Before the pandemic, trends as ‘health’, ‘convenience’ and ‘plant based’ were already in the picture, but since COVID-19 became a global issue, more people started to get motivated to make healthier choices and adopt healthier habits.
“These patterns are expected to have staying power in the post-COVID-19 world. ‘Being aware of what you eat’ and ‘taking up a healthier lifestyle’ has never been more important than today, and here’s where Dirafrost can make a significant contribution,” the company’s sales director says.
As most know, frozen fruit has a lot more benefits such as availability (off-season fruits available all year long), convenience (no washing, peeling or cutting, and no mess to clean up afterwards), no food waste (perfectly portioned), longer shelf life (frozen fruit remains fresh for months or even years), mature and tasty fruit (harvested at the peak of ripeness instead of ripening during transportation), nutrient retention (individually quick frozen to lock in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants), and freezing process (to preserve beneficial plant compounds that help protect against diseases).
Dirafrost’s core markets are European, such as France, the GASI region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy), Benelux, and the UK. Other markets of interest for the company are the US and Japan, the former growing quite quicky, Synaeve says. However, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, trade became more difficult for everyone in the food industry, but also helped to create new opportunities. Being a globally-active company, Dirafrost managed to adapt to local markets and segments, thus endeavoring to minimize the losses in some of the foodservice areas, by creating and redirecting products towards retail, which, in Synaeve’s opinion is slowly starting to grow.
A noteworthy portfolio
As a frozen fruit pioneer, Dirafrost offers several areas of interest, depending on the clients’ business profile. Among these, one can find IQF fruits, which are cultivated according to the company’s specifications, in order to ensure perfect traceability and quality. Each fruit is frozen shortly after harvest to guarantee optimum taste and freshness. They are available under the DIRA brand, or packed under the clients’ private label. Customers can also test the IQF fruit mixes of frozen berries and exotic fruits, which are suitable for breakfast, smoothies, fruit pies, jams and more. Besides finding these under the DIRA brand, the company has created tailor-made recipes for the food industry or for the private label segment.
Taking smoothies into retail
Smoothie mixes are also a top seller category, as they are convenient mixes of frozen fruits, packed in 150g bags, in order to give smoothies a constant taste and color. The frozen fruits immediately chill the smoothie, so there is no need to add ice cubes. Last but not least, the company’s premium fruit purees offer constant taste and color for foodservice, artisan bakeries and the food industry. The ingredients are sourced by the Dirafrost fruit experts and processed at low temperature and flash-pasteurized, to preserve the fruit’s natural taste and color. They are available with or without added sugar.
“Consumers also want adventure and indulgence at home: differentiation in what’s available. Dirafrost launched a range of smoothies in retail for people to also enjoy a quality-made smoothie at home.”
The main trends for 2021
According to Synaeve, there are three factors driving frozen food trends in 2021: the rising popularity of the segment; the pandemic effect; plus dietary and lifestyle trends, applicable in frozen foods. He believes that the shift towards eating at home, created by the pandemic, has brought benefits to frozen food in general, and frozen fruit (and vegetables) in particular. The trends above will continue in this year and beyond, Synaeve says. Macro trends moving towards plant-based and other wellness diets, along with natural and clean label ingredient foods will remain.
“Dirafrost used to be a pure IQF-focused company, so we produced our own fruits, sourced and supplied on a global scale. We’ve been moving towards added-value products and foodservice, and as such, we needed different products. We wanted to have mixes, smoothies, fruit purees. Overall, we have more than 300 different SKUS serving diverse global activities and industries. During the last years, we also started focusing on the whole bakery segment where we successfully introduced the preformed frozen fruit discs. Also in this segment, we are continuously innovating in order to expand our convenience portfolio”, the company’s sales director concludes.