Christmas arrived early for members of the United Kingdom frozen food industry, in the way of very glad tidings of joy recently heralded by Kantar Worldpanel. The market research company announced that Britain’s annual frozen retail sales volume now exceeds £6 billion for the first time, as value has risen 5.4% in comparison to last year’s 0.6% decline.
Now that the Yuletide party season is in full swing, a rich selection of previously frozen seasonal culinary treats are on the menu. On the retail front, supermarkets are also getting in on the action, offering a variety of frozen Christmas products, from canapes and party food to stuffed birds and desserts, with great success.
Once again, Aldi has pulled out all the stops in offering premium-style frozen products at an affordable price point. A couple of items available this year include the Specially Selected Stuffed Turkey Parcel, which retails at £8.99, and Specially Selected British Beef Chateaubriand with Red Wine Sauce, coming in at a modest £9.99.
COOP is also vying for a share in the market too with its budget frozen Christmas dinner for four costing just £10. Consumers will get a bacon wrapped turkey joint, sage and onion stuffing balls, roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, honey glazed roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas and a Viennetta.
Iceland is once again proving more is more with its 220-piece party food package for £15. It includes a bottle of wine, highlighting consumers’ desire for convenience and value.
During the holiday season everyone’s on the lookout for something special when dining out, making the weeks leading up to Christmas a critical period for the foodservice industry.
“There is only one way to celebrate the festive season and that’s with the true indulgence of everyone’s favorite Christmas food,” said Christina Veal, director at New Forest Ice Cream. “With more consumers choosing to dine out of home and make the most of the festive cheer, the pressure is always on to create a show-stopping menu.”
Premium frozen products are being sold in the retail sector with great success and it’s never been easier for those in the foodservice sector to take advantage of this burgeoning market and the public’s desire for decadent food.
Thanks to advanced freezing techniques, caterers can order in pre-made canapes, sharing platter pieces and desserts safe in the knowledge they will maintain their taste and texture.
“Frozen food is often the preferred choice of many operators and has an abundance of different benefits, including extended shelf life, portion control, consistency, reduced waste, speed of preparation and the ability to bulk buy,” pointed out Adrian Greaves, foodservice director at Young’s Seafood. “Frozen food can still be sourced locally, maintain a high quality and be used to make meals from scratch, therefore it is a great solution for time-poor operators.”
Free from products are in great demand and as a result manufacturers have focussed on this area to produce quality products with a high end feel. Subsequently the industry has moved away from tired fail-safe dishes and has invested in more exciting options.
“Menu appeal is increased if seasonal ingredients and flavors are included,” explained Becky Hover, food marketing manager at Brakes. “We are starting to see more and more interest in seasonal vegetarian options.”
The competition becomes fiercer as each year passes with everyone keen to make an impression on customers with innovative products, but the timeless classics still have their place on a menu.
“Salmon remains extremely popular around the festive period,” said Greaves. “Smoked salmon is often considered particularly indulgent and adds a touch of elegance to any menu.”
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without turkey, but consumers want something more exciting than a simple roasted bird. Why not steal the show with a pre-prepared turkey ballotine? These pre-stuffed and wrapped poultry packages are ideal for serving turkey in style.
Thanks to the popularity of cult shows such as “The Great British Bake Off” consumers have greater interest and knowledge in baked goods, particularly pâtisserie.
“Premium French pâtisserie has become one of the most prominent trends in sweet foods,” said Jon Turonnet, foodservice sales manager at Brioche Pasquier. “Classic French favorites such as macarons and choux pastries lend sophistication to any festive menu.”
Most catering outlets don’t have the luxury of a dedicated pastry chef to create these delicacies, so frozen products allow them to take advantage of this trend with ease. Buying premium patisserie not only means caterers can keep customers happy, but can save time, reduce ingredient costs and waste too.
“A roulade is an ideal dessert to serve in the run up to Christmas,” said Gordon Lauder, managing director of Central Foods. “It makes good commercial sense for foodservice operators to serve up items that are going to appeal to as many people as possible.”
The Collingtree, England-based frozen food distributor’s bag of holiday treats also includes seasonally decorated gluten-free doughnuts, sage and onion stuffing balls, and vegetarian roasts.
Christmas is a time for giving in the desire to indulge and as a result consumers are more likely to make impulse purchases. In order to take advantage of this weak state of mind caterers need to help them give into temptation with sweet treats they simply can’t refuse.
“Sweet bakery products are often impulse purchases that are emotionally and comfort-driven, so nostalgia is a key ingredient when it comes to appealing to consumers, especially at Christmas time,” said Jacqui Passmore, marketing manager UK and Ireland for Dawn Foods. “A big trend is vintage American-style hand-cut squares of Carrot Cake, authentic Brownies, Muffins and Cookies.”
Frozen Christmas products are in high demand and the appetite for frozen food shows no sign of abating. Indeed, the frozen food industry has positively evolved in the last decade, as the advantages of freezing technology have been better explained to the general public. The British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) has spearheaded the drive, bolstered by advertising and education campaigns from its membership.
“A lot of work has been done in communicating the benefits of frozen food to consumers, with focused and innovative marketing campaigns from brands and retailers,” said John Hyman, chief executive of the BFFF. “This has significantly contributed to the change in consumers’ perceptions.”
Among those in the vanguard of the public relations effort has been the Iceland retail chain. Its persuasive “Power of Frozen” message makes the point that keeping healthier options in the home freezer, such as fruit, vegetables, lean meat and fish, helps families to maintain a more balanced diet in line with government recommendations. It also reminds consumers that frozen food usage helps reduce food waste, benefiting both the family budget and the environment.
The change of heart among consumers regarding frozen food has not only led to increased sales in the retail sector, but to a higher level of acceptance within the foodservice industry too with more and more caterers relying on frozen ingredients and products to create menus.
The beauty of using frozen fare is that it makes producing standout dishes a breeze. With all the benefits and quality of frozen products on the market today everyone can keep their cool this Christmas. – Reported by Sarah Welsh