Private Label Meets Buyers One-on-One at WABEL Frozen Summit

The fourth edition of the Frozen Food Summit, organized by sourcing specialist company Wabel this March in Paris, suppliers of private label frozen foodstuffs had the chance to hold private meetings with representatives of major retail chains from all over Europe.

By Dan Orehov

The event featured an exhibition with brand new private label frozen food products primarily from European producers and suppliers, who met during previously arranged meetings with major purchasing groups such as Carrefour, Intermarché, Auchan, LSG Sky Chefs, Bidvest, Tesco, Aldi, Ocado, Sonae, Waitrose, La Sirena, Kaufland, Musgrave, ICA etc. “Close to 100 suppliers and 100 buyers attended many pre-scheduled closed door face-to-face meetings. To this, we provided numerous networking opportunities during the lunch and cocktail dinner sessions and on the exhibition area,” said Antoine Bonnel, the co-founder and MD of the organization.

Focus on today’s trends

In partnership with major research agencies, such as Euromonitor and Mintel, the Wabel Frozen Summit hosted a series of presentations, which provided attendees with useful information on frozen food trends, consumer behavior and retail landscape.

According to the presentation held by an analyst from Euromonitor International, the trend towards healthier frozen food options is growing in European retail, as is the desire to purchase more premium assortments. Among the key features of frozen foods which consumers are interested in and willing to pay more for are natural, organic, clean and clear label, natural and convenient. “According to data, per capita spending on frozen food has increased in all the major five European markets in the past five years. For example, in the UK, consumers spent on average EUR133 in 2015, compared to 127 in 2010, while the French spent EUR85, compared to EUR82,” said Ivan Koric, analyst at Euromonitor, during his presentation.

Another growing trend in retail is the increase in spending on the online channels, as internet shopping is quickly becoming a part of everyday habits for Europeans, Euromonitor says. As a response to changing consumer preferences, manufacturers have come up with innovative products in recent times, such as seasonal and limited edition frozen food, attractive and convenient packaging, vegetarian, vegan and free-from editions, while at the same time emphasizing indulgence and the snacking trend.

Similarly, the free-from trend is growing in frozen food, with more producers introducing both gluten-free and lactose-free ranges, on the background of increased consumer demand for such products in frozen food retailing, according to a presentation by Mintel. The free-from growth is driven by the gluten-free craze: 1 in 10 new products is now free from one or more allergens while almost 8% of all new frozen food product launches in Europe were gluten free. “Although still limited in Europe, Mintel says there has been an increase in lactose free products, especially on developed markets, such as Germany. In fact, a survey shows that 46% of German consumers are interested in purchasing lactose free frozen food, such as pizza for example. Moreover, the share of non-dairy launches reached 8% of the total ice cream introductions in 2015, compared to just 2% in 2013-2014,” said the analyst.

With regards to the target market, young consumers with ages 16-34 are the most willing to buy dairy free ice cream and innovations in using milk replacement products are also on the rise. Among the most common of these, there are coconut milk, almond milk, pea protein as well as a more recent variant, namely cashew milk. As Mintel says, there is a growing trend among consumers of switching from lactose-free to dairy-free products. Consequently, key brands are starting to engage with the Millenial generation, by using the above mentioned new types of milk, much more so than the soy alternative, which has been slowly decreasing as an alternative since it is considered an allergen itself. Regardless of the choice alternative used, flavor remains a key factor for non-dairy frozen desserts, and is placed on top of the manufacturers’ NPD list, since the dairy-free market will continue to grow, not only because of intolerances, but also due to the fact that consumers see a plant based diet (including frozen food) as healthier.

Award Winners

The gala dinner organized as the main networking event during the Frozen Summit was preceded by an Awards Festivity, recognizing some of the most innovative products in private label today. Divided in categories such as ice cream, bakery, pizza, potatoes, desserts, appetizers, the award ceremony was the highlight for suppliers of all the frozen categories mentioned above, as one of the representatives of a winning company said. The selection of the winning entries was based on originality and innovation, marketing and ingredients that meet the current trends, as well as attractive packaging and presentation. Please feel free to browse some of the winning products in our New Products page of this issue of Frozen Food Europe magazine.

“Regarding our winning product, we conducted in depth research into the flavors we wanted to create. With this we held various tasting sessions to create exactly what we wanted. We then tested the flavors against a consumer panel and used the feedback to finalise the product. Size of serving, pouch shape and size and freezing suitability were all tested along the journey to create the product,” said Nick Brennand, representative of IceCo, who won the award for Best Frozen Drinks category for a ready to serve frozen cocktail range.

“Our frozen cocktails are the latest addition to our ‘next generation of ‘ice’ products. Although frozen cocktails have been available in bars worldwide for some years, the concept of being able to purchase these in a pouch for convenient home consumption is still a fairly new concept and innovation. Our biggest challenge is to make consumers aware of the product, and also to steer them to the freezer aisles to purchase them,” he added.

The face to face meetings, conferences, presentations, awards and gala dinner, together with exclusive sessions held by retailers for suppliers, under the brand “Retailers Insight”, made this edition of the Wabel Frozen Summit a successful one for all participants, according to Antoine Bonnel, the co-founder and MD of the organization. “Wabel Summits generated millions of euro of new private-label business for clients, helping retailers such as Carrefour, Auchan, Intermarché, Tesco, Iceland, Bofrost, Picard, Metro, Jerónimo Martins and many others to stay competitive by working with affordable, high-quality, innovative products from diverse European suppliers,” he ended.