03 Sep What is Driving the Renaissance in Frozen Foods?
While the increase in sales of frozen foods is driven (in part) by the growth of the Discounters, other factors are having an influence, including: a so called ‘premiumisation’ of the sector, which has led to an increase in the price of the products, an increase in on-line shopping and improved perceptions of the quality and nutritional value of frozen food.
Retailers are keen to tap into the growing interest at the premium end of the frozen market. Iceland has launched a new store concept called The Food Warehouse in six locations which is around twice the size of a typical Iceland store and offers consumers and caterers a wider range of fresh and frozen food including speciality cuts of exotic meats, seafood, seasonal fruit and vegetables as well as a large range of British and Continental dishes. New players have also entered the market such as Cook Food, which was launched in 1997, rapidly expanding outside of London and the South East and now offering a growing on-line home delivery service. Their food is produced in small batches, with an aim to give a ‘homemade feel’ through minimal packaging and the introduction of the ‘chef’ in an attempt to sprinkle a bit of ‘restaurant magic’. Most lines also focus on the simplicity of their ingredients list.
Some of the Cook products fared better than others when tested through Fast Foodfax this month. The ‘Classic Fish Pie’ was certainly creamy with plenty of fish and “big prawns”, but at £4.50 for a single serving, it was also “expensive”, and Value was a particular problem in the South (where consumers are statistically proven to be more critical). However, the more innovative Chicken & Mushroom Lasagne (41) set a new category maximum for Frozen Pasta Products with nearly 3 in 4 testers rating it ‘new and different’ and it was also considered better Value at £3.99 for a 400g version.
Many of Cook’s products are aimed at the growing market for ‘in-home dining’ and those shopping in a Cook store enjoy an almost deli style environment, with freezers arranged by meal occasion as well as meal type, and plenty of products (such as the Steak & Red Wine Pie, 37) aimed as a Friday night alternative to M&S or a gastro pub meal. £8.50 may seem a little steep for a frozen pie, but this was enhanced by the use of Merlot Wine and rump beef, prepared by a ‘Chef’, and was still considerably cheaper than the cost of a meal for 2 in the local pub, even if it had been served with Cook’s Dauphinoise Potatoes (38) (a full £2.10 more expensive than a chilled competitor from Aldi – Bon Appetit Potatoes au Gratin, 44 which was 89p for a 500g serving) and rounded off with a Bread & Butter Pudding at £3.25 for a pack of two. Cook appears to be ticking the boxes for many time-starved consumers looking for simple, home-made alternatives for their family, as well as those seeking more indulgent, weekend fare. The popularity of their Children’s range is clear evidence that using the very best ingredients and presenting it in a home-cooked format, goes some way to alleviate the guilt many parents feel about opting for convenience food for their kids.