In Frozen Food Merchandising, Eye Appeal is Buy Appeal

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Merchandising is key to selling products in the retail sector, particularly frozen goods, which are sometimes overlooked by consumers. With the Deep Dive Survey from HIM! Research and Consulting showing that 42% of retailers in the United Kingdom agree that frozen food is important to the success of their business, getting merchandising right is vital.

It’s clear to see why store managers concentrate most of their efforts on perishable grocery products at the entrance of the store – after all, it’s easy to make brightly colored fruit and vegetables look enticing. However, when it comes to frozen products, it’s not quite that simple. This is why merchandising plays an integral role in the success of any frozen food line.

Freezer aisles in supermarkets are incredibly crowded, creating an environment in which brands really need to compete to be noticed. This is no mean feat when stocking frozen food cases and cabinets, as there are limitations to what can realistically be achieved.

New Forest“Frozen packaging needs to make even more of an impact to entice buyers,” said Christina Veal, director at Lymington, Hampshire, England-based New Forest Ice Cream. “As customers also have to make a more conscious effort to look in the freezer to view products, it is even more important that each product stands out and has visual appeal.”

One way in which retailers have started to add curb appeal in the frozen section is to introduce more premium products. From Lidl’s Croquembouche and Sainsbury’s Toffee and Pecan Roulade to the Asda’s Extra Special Golden Baked Salted Caramel Cheesecake and Tesco’s Finest Strawberries and Cream Tart – the majority of supermarkets are realizing the pull of premium in the freezer aisles.

Brioche Pasquier MACARONS CLASSIQUE“By offering a few well-chosen premium products from the freezer, an operator can draw attention to the frozen range and tempt customers into treating themselves,” said Matthew Grenter, sales manager at Milton Keynes-based Brioche Pasquier UK.

Standing Tall

One game changer in the frozen aisles was the move from chest freezers to open and upright models, which give greater scope for displays. The Iceland chain is a prime exemplar of the importance of innovative merchandising in the frozen sector.

ICELAND CLAPHAM PRESS 300“Iceland food stores introduced upright freezers which look like conventional refrigeration units, allowing them to stock produce facing the customer,” explained Paul Colback, a freelance retail innovation consultant. “They have invested in quality equipment, so three’s no condensation or ice formation on the glass, thus allowing customers to see all products clearly.”

Iceland Foods has been a pioneer in enhancing the reputation of frozen food and has achieved this through altering the customer’s experience in their stores. They manage consumer perceptions by taking shoppers on a journey, starting with the introduction of perishable items at the front of the store.

“They are establishing quality and reassurance early on in customers’ experience by offering fresh produce and food-to-go,” said Colback. “That first journey of managing what people are thinking about a store is vital.”

Word on the Street

Consumer insight is essential to improve merchandising, and according to IGD’s ShopperVista report, price is always at the forefront of shoppers’ minds. In fact, frozen meals ranked fifth out of 34 categories where price was an important consideration at the point of purchase.

“Although price plays an important role in shoppers’ purchase decisions, the majority of frozen meal shoppers are prepared to pay extra for what they perceive to be higher quality,” said Nick Downing, commercial director at IGD. “Frozen meals rank second out of 34 categories where shoppers agree that it’s worth paying a little extra to get better quality.”

Igniting consumers’ imaginations in the freezer aisle is essential to gain sales. From flavor innovation to unusual items rarely seen in the UK, frozen products have to work harder to earn their place on the shelves.

According to ShopperVista, flavor innovation is important to shoppers when it comes to frozen meals, as 28% chose a specific product because it was a different flavor or type that they wanted to try, versus a category average of 13%.

“Suppliers of frozen meals should look for opportunities to surprise and delight shoppers to increase experimentation,” said Downing. “For example: using new ingredients, different cuisines, seasonal or limited-edition products.”

He added: “Aligning innovation to different needs or occasions can increase product consumption and may attract new shoppers into the category. For example: developing meals for a dinner party, or late evening snack, or meals to consume post-exercise.”

Location, Location, Location

The position of products can have a huge impact on sales. End displays are often more successful because they are highly visible to customers walking up and down the aisle, and they are synonymous with sales or offers. In fact, 48% of shoppers taking part in the ShopperVista survey agreed with the following statement: “If a product is displayed at the end of an aisle I assume it is on special offer.”

Furthermore, 67% always particularly look at end of aisles for promotions, making them an essential tool to maximise promotional sales.

It’s these types of promotional strategies that can result in a change in shopper behavior. Price reductions will result in impulse purchases, pushing trials of new products, and multi-buy offers will help to increase basket size. The IGD report found is that consumers often struggle to determine if special offers are good value for money, therefore providing both the promoted price and the savings made may increase buy appeal.

Once again, Iceland Foods has tackled the issue of clear communication with customers by introducing digital displays in some stores that can relay a range of information to consumers.

“In place of a conventional piece of card with the product cost, stores can utilize digital technology to not only communicate prices and deals, but promotions, recipes, provenance and attractive imagery,” said Colback. “It allows stores to tell a story.”

Merchandising has the potential to alter the spending habits of customers, thus increasing spend. Although this is harder to pull off in the frozen food sector, innovation in terms of packaging and display, as well as investment in more customer-friendly freezers, has improved both customer experience and retail sales dramatically.

Frozen Facts

Here are some interesting statistics, courtesy of IGD’s ShopperVista:

  • Shoppers are moving to discounters to buy frozen food – one in five consumers are buying more of their frozen food from discounters now compared to 12 months ago
  • 59% of symbol stores, 11% independents follow planograms
  • 3% of transactions in symbol convenience stores include a frozen purchase.

All in all, the evolution of “smart selling” in frozen food aisles continues apace thanks to new merchandising techniques taking advantage of digital technology, development and new generation equipment. – Reported by Sarah Welsh