Chicken Products Rule Roost on EU Frozen Poultry Scene

Poultry has been a staple menu item around the world both in and out of home for decades thanks to its versatility, lean protein-rich composition and affordable price. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that chicken is the most widely eaten meat in Europe.

According to the National Poultry Council in Poland, poultry production within the European Union has experienced steady growth and analysts forecast that this will continue in the future. Demand is so great that the EU’s annual imports of chicken products from Thailand alone are valued at almost €900 million, reports the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association. The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany, respectively, rank as the top buying markets. Brazil is also a major supplier.

A report from Nielsen Scantrack is evidence of ongoing growth and shows that the UK frozen poultry category is worth £408.8 million and is expanding at a 7.6% clip. Birds Eye has a 32.9% share of this market and has seen 3.5% growth accelerating to 12% during the last 12-week measuring period.

With the Horizons Menurama Trend Report highlighting the fact that chicken makes up seven of the top 20 main course dishes eaten out of home, it’s clear that consumers have an appetite for poultry which shows no sign of abating.

“Chicken is a huge market for foodservice,” said Richard Harries, business development manager at Walsal, West Midlands, England-based Love Joes. “It makes up 35% of our output and is a market that will continue to enjoy huge success.”

Major Trends

Golden Valley Foods American Chicken Fillets 120g Cut Open Available from Central FoodsCentral Foods offers foodservice customers Golden Valley American Chicken Fillets.Street food has saturated the UK market and there’s no sign of it drying up any time soon. As a result manufacturers have met demand for this type of casual dining with a range of chicken products ideal for both the foodservice and retail sectors.

“The street food trend is predicted to continue during 2018, so it’s well worth looking at how poultry products can be used to take advantage of this demand,” said Gordon Lauder, managing director of Collingtree, Northhampton, England-based Central Foods.

Moy ParkMoy Park’s wide selection of poultry fare includes Gourmet Herb Crusted Chicken Burgers.Craigavon, Northern Ireland-headquartered Moy Park’s casual dining range is offered to help operators take a slice of the £10 billion market for informal dining by tapping into key trends such as Americana, street food and spice. Its assortment includes Gourmet Herb Crusted Chicken Burgers, Buttermilk Chicken Wings, Smoky BBQ Chicken Shanks, and Katsu Chicken Curry Melts.

“Chicken lends itself incredibly well in a range of favorites, from classics such as burgers and wraps to more adventurous options that tap into key consumer trends,” said Frannie Santos-Mawdsley, senior customer marketing manager for European foodservice at Moy Park.

Coated products such as popcorn chicken, southern fried pieces and garlic kievs all remain staples both in the UK and across continental Europe. One would be hard pressed to walk into any foodservice environment and not find coated chicken in one form or other on the menu.

Vossko Pandora Chicken SticksVossko Chicken Sticks may be enjoyed as a snack, side dish, or even as main course if the serving quantity is appropriate.On the continent consumer tastes seem in line with those of their British counterparts, as Kerstin Böckenhoff of Ostbevern, Germany-based Vossko GmbH & Co. KG explained:

“Over the last year sales have slightly increased by around 2%. Trends in the frozen meat convenience products market in Germany are seen in classic breaded snack items like chicken nuggets, as well as burgers and cordon bleu style products.”

Vossko offers a wide variety of fully cooked and quick-frozen products that range from turkey gyros and pulled turkey to chicken wings, chicken sticks, medallions and much more. The company avoids using additives and coloring wherever possible, so most of its products bear clean labels.

Spice and heat has featured heavily in new product development due to demand from consumers for more fired-up cuisine. This can be attributed to the popularity of street food and the fact that poultry is a good base for flavor enhancement.

Birds Eye chicken grills reggaereggaeLevi Roots teamed up with Birds Eye to bring some sizzle to tea time with Reggae Reggae Chicken Chargrills.“Consumers are always looking to bring new and exciting flavors to the table. Mexican and BBQ continue to be popular, and the influence of independent chicken shops and street food has opened up a range of new taste experiences,” said Mike Sowerby, chicken brand manager for Birds Eye, the iconic frozen food brand that has been part of the portfolio of Feltham, England-headquartered Nomad Foods Limited for the past several years.

In an effort to meet rising demand, Birds Eye is re-launching its grills range with new flavors including Mexican Nacho Crumb Chicken, Soy Ginger and Garlic, and Katsu Curry Saucy Chicken. These will join current offerings that include Levi Roots-inspired Reggae Reggae Chicken Chargrills and Lime & Chilli Chicken Chargrills.

There has also been a definite shift in the market from reformed products towards whole muscle, breast chunks, goujons and fillets. In frozen format, poultry is very quick and convenient to prepare, and with the volume and variety on the market in both the retail and foodservice sector menu, fatigue simply isn’t possible.

Health Concerns

Health eating is currently a key trend, with many consumers preferring poultry to red meat. As an ever-increasing number of people opt for free from products, either through necessity or personal preference, gluten free poultry dishes are in high demand.

Riverside Foods Shot 9 gluten free mini filletsGluten free Chicken Mini Fillets are available from Riverside Foods.Riverside Foods’ gluten free whole muscle chicken range includes Chicken Goujons, Chicken Chunks, Chicken Escalopes, Chicken Mini Fillets and Chicken Kievs. The products are made with 100% whole muscle, unprocessed, chicken breast coated in gluten free breadcrumb.

“Gluten free is no longer a niche market just for consumers with gluten intolerances, but for a wider consumer base seeking an all-round healthier diet,” said Leigh Morris, managing director at Oswestry, Shropshire, England-based Riverside Foods. “We felt strongly that we needed to develop and offer a gluten free range to improve the choice for consumers eating in and out of the home.”

According to Nielsen Solutions, increasing numbers of consumers are demanding more transparency so they can make informed decisions about food that may have a negative impact on their health. Many are concerned about the use of antibiotics and the risk it poses to consumers through consumption of poultry products.

One company that has taken food safety to a new level is Bangkok, Thailand-headquartered Betagro, which has introduced chicken free from hormones and growth stimulants, which can be harmful to human health. Its ready-to-cook products are free from antibiotics and chemical residues and carry the NSF certification to inform customers in Europe and Asia of the special status.

Betagro’s S-Pure branded chicken meat has set a high standard for quality in Thailand, production and marketing of value-added poultry products is highly competitive. Its evolving range of “Quality for Life” frozen products for the export market runs the gamut from charcoal-grilled Negima Yakitori and fried Tulip Wing Sticks to steamed bar-marked whole breast and roasted Teriyaki steak.

The global popularity of poultry has shown no sign of wavering over the years, but today’s consumers are now demanding variations on the classics and premium quality dishes with bold flavors. Frozen poultry products are ideal to allow the foodservice and retail sector to quickly and conveniently follow food trends with ease. – Reported by Sarah Welsh