Frozen innovation shined brightly during the four-day International Food & Drink Event (IFE) at ExCel London March 22-25. The United Kingdom’s foremost trade show for the food and beverage industry, held every two years since 1997, showcased new products as well as tried-and-true menu favorites from approximately 1,300 companies representing 57 countries. This year’s running attracted from some 27,000 visitors from 127 nations hailing from every corner of the globe.
Front and center, leading the charge in the frozen sector was the British Frozen Foods Federation (BFFF), complete with its high profile Ice Wall and 24 of the trade association’s member companies. Among them were the 2 Sisters Food Group, Dawn Meats, Lila’s Fine Foods, Plufood, R&R Ice Cream, Rosemary & Thyme (an Ardo Group unit), Big Fish Brand and IcePak.
The Ice Wall, standing stall at seven feet high at the entranced of the fair grounds, featured 20 blocks of ice sponsored by frozen food manufacturers and service providers spanning the retail and foodservice markets in the UK. Companies included Bidvest 3663, Daregal Gourmet, Dawnfresh Seafoods, Roythornes, Sea Products Intl (SPI), Golden Valley PWS, Lilia’s Fine Foods, Lantmannen Unibake, Norbert D’entressangle, Pinguin Foods, Pinnacle Foods and Rick Bestwick.
It was the first time for IcePak, part of the Yearsley Group, to exhibit at IFE. The company made the most of the occasion by spotlighting a wide range of seafood, poultry and meat that included king prawns and breaded scampi.
Freeworld Foods, another first-timer at the fair, served up croissants and pastries as well as Spanish-style baked goods from partner Berlys, in addition to vegetables from Congelados de Navarra.
Sizzling with spice from Brazil was BRF’s Hot ‘n’ Kickin’ chicken assortment of wings, fillets, goujons and Poppin’ Chlicken. The easy to prepare range is especially aimed at buyers in the the catering industry.
The Big Fish Brand, launched a bit more than a year ago by Grimsby-based JCS Fish, showcased salmon fillets in an Eastern Thai marinade and Garden Mint, as well as three different kinds of fish cakes and a raft of other sea fare.
Yummie Sushi debuted an assortment of Japanese-style hand finished sushi at the show. Produced by Britain’s largest sushi manufacturer, Ichiban UK, the initial rollout features three recipes: fish, mixed and vegetarian.
The Viciunai Group had no shortage of show-goers at its stand, as they lined up to sample the company’s Gyoza Taste of Asia treats. Its expansive Asian cuisine offerings range from dumplings stuffed with a variety of sauces, meats and vegetables. Among the fillings are chicken and Chinese black mushroom, salmon and cheese, shrimp, and even a turkey, cranberry and apple blend. Made in a purpose built factory in Lithuania and packed in a variety of retail configurations and sizes, the line is distributed by the Lithuania-headquartered company’s Aberdeen, Scotland-based Viciunai Group UK & Ireland unit.
In addition to new product launches, there were plenty of conferences and panel discussions to gather information from at IFE. Brian Young, chief executive of the BFFF, served on a panel that addressed a timely topic entitled “Challenge: The UK is Doing its Best to Support the Food and Drink Industry…or is it?”
The BFFF also seized the moment to raise awareness of food waste — which is the equivalent of one-third of all the food purchased by British consumers each year — and the waste reducing benefits of frozen food across the supply chain and in the home. Research has shown that this figure could be significantly reduced by using freezing to prolong shelf life and make better use of so-called “ugly veg.”
Of the seven million tons of food wasted in the home, at least four million tons is avoidable waste. The frozen food industry is looking to help reduce this figure and contribute to food security in the UK by increasing the use of frozen food.
“The issue of food waste is one that is increasingly important as population growth and other influences bring food security higher and higher on the government agenda,” said Young.
“Reducing food waste both in the home and in the supply chain is an areas where the food industry can really make a big impact — and with something as simple as increasing freezing. We wanted to really get the message across to all of the food industry’s decision makers at IFE with a wall of ice as they walk through the door,” said Young. “By making more use of frozen we can help to reduce waste at every stage, from surplus crops in the field, to making use of food deemed too ugly for sale in prepared fruit and vegetables, to getting over the fear of the best before date with significant extended shelf life.”
Independent Research Makes Solid Case
The basis of Young’s comments was the latest independent research from experts at Cranfield University, which has shown that increasing the production and consumption of frozen food in the UK can play a significant role in delivering the British government’s 2020 and 2050 food security targets.
Researchers at the leading university assessed a range of factors, such as waste reduction, increasing production, providing affordable nutrition and reducing the environmental impact of food production. They concluded that frozen food already contributes to food security in the UK and expanding its use could contribute significantly more.
The Frozen Food and Food Security in the UK report calculated greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE), consumer cost and waste production for four of the most common shopping list items — cod, carrots, broccoli and potatoes — and compared typical fresh and frozen supply chains throughout the year. Key findings included:
- Increasing frozen food can significantly reduce edible food waste in the supply chain and lessen the impact of food waste. Research found that any waste produced in frozen production occurred higher in the supply chain where it has less impact due to reuse and recycling options compared to fresh products wasted in the home, which often ends up in a landfill.
- Frozen products are typically less expensive than their fresh equivalents, making fish and vegetable products, which can enhance dietary health, more accessible to low budget households. Frozen Atlantic cod and broccoli florets were 32% and 33% less expensive than their fresh counterparts, respectively.
- Frozen food can significantly reduce GHGE production for foodstuffs not produced in the UK year round. By increasing the use of frozen broccoli, the UK could be 100% self sufficient in production, reducing GHGE production by 15%. Fresh Atlantic cod produces at least 50% more CO2e than frozen, because the extended shelf life offered by frozen food enables efficient transportation methods.
Dr. Adrian Williams, principal research fellow at Cranfield University’s School of Energy, Environment and Agri-food, said: “The report brings together a wealth of research which shows that there are improvements that can be made by making better use of freezing technologies in the food chain. This has particular benefits in reducing the impact of food waste and enabling sustainable transportation of food imported into the UK.”
Young commented: “Food security is increasingly becoming prominent on the government’s agenda. As the population increases the food industry must take an active role in helping to meet the growing demand for nutritional, affordable food without impacting on the environment.
“As this research clearly shows, embracing a wide variety of frozen food can help us to achieve the goals set out by the government in its food security strategy in a sustainable way.”
Last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released its report into the food security issue. Anne McIntosh, chair of the committee, said: “Complacency is a genuine risk to future UK food security. If we want our food production and supply systems to be secure, government and food producers must plan to meet the impacts of climate change, population growth and increasing global demand for food.”
Young added: “The research supports our belief that increasing the production and the use of frozen food in the UK can help to counter these impacts and enable a more sustainable and secure food supply in the UK in the future.”
The Frozen Food and Food Security in the UK report was commissioned by the British FrozenFood Federation. A downloadable copy of it is available by visiting the BFFF’s website at bfff.co.uk/promotion/media-library.