Convenience Merchandising Drives Sales In United Kingdom Frozen Food Sector

Multivo Freezer HL DisplayAlthough the principles of merchandising frozen food are the same as the fundamentals for promoting ambient products, it’s considerably more difficult to pull off because glass doors in reach-in freezer cabinets stand between shoppers and products on display.

“Unlike chilled and ambient product, frozen food is usually merchandised behind some sort of physical barrier, such as a door or lid,” said Richard Harrow, chief executive of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF). “Consumer engagement with the category is therefore really important as customers only tend to open the freezer door if they’re certain they want to purchase the product.”

Visual impact is far harder to achieve in the freezer section when compared to ambient departments, as it’s a challenge to display food products in an aesthetically appealing way when they are behind glass and concealed within packaging.

“The category is usually located at the end of the shopper journey, which may not encourage people on non-frozen missions to browse this area,” explained Lucy Ingram, retail analyst at Watford, England-based IGD. “Jumbo Foodmarkt stores in the Netherlands are one of a number of retailers increasing consideration of frozen products by ranging them close to chilled equivalents, making it easier for shoppers to compare options.”

Trends

Sustainability remains a key issue for the retail sector and as a result innovations within the frozen food sector have been driven by energy efficiency.

Iceland 3“Equipment has become more energy efficient,” said Jim Clifton, head of merchandising at Iceland. “Upright freezers have become easier to use and even more space efficient.”

Consumers with increasingly busy lifestyles are looking for convenience when shopping, which has presented a great opportunity for the frozen sector as it meets this demand.

Highlighting the health benefits of products through on-pack communication is now more commonplace as is using social media platforms, such as Instagram, to show consumers what the end product will look like.“Retailers and suppliers are finding a number of ways to capitalize on this, with three trends standing out as having the biggest impact in the department: category evolution, delivering value and ease and convenience,” explained Ingram. “With the rise of industry trends such as health, sustainability and the role social media plays, we’re seeing the frozen category evolve significantly to engage with shoppers in these areas.”

“Communicating value for money is key in the frozen category,” continued Ingram. “Making the most visual impact and clearly communicating this message to shoppers should be an area of focus for retailers. Bright, bold messages communicating value can be seen across all retailers in this area.”

Farmfoods, for example, is delivering value with multi-buy offers aimed at families and is integral to the retailer’s offering. It makes full use of impactful messaging both inside and outside stores to clearly establish their value offering.

Ease and convenience is hugely appealing to consumers and given that the frozen food section is the least simple to navigate, retailers are endeavoring to make the process easier and more enjoyable for them.

“Increasing awareness of newly introduced frozen ranges is a tactic being seen by retailer B&M,” said Ingram. “Placing frozen ranges adjacent to fresh will also offer a more prominent place in store, as we’re currently seeing from Sainsbury’s.”

Driving Sales

Historically, food retailers underestimated the importance of creating a warmer environment in the frozen food aisles and the positive impact this could have on sales, as shoppers could spend longer browsing in comfort.

Multi Freezer HL DisplayThe introduction of closed cabinets has certainly helped with this issue, pointed out Duncan Hill, managing director of HL Display Products in Essex.

Once again, convenience has been a driving force in many campaigns with retailers using merchandising techniques to offer complete meal solutions all in one place for ultimate accessibility.

The Co-op chain is one of the best proponents of this approach, according to Harrow.

“Their meal deal on frozen, with everything all in one cabinet, has performed very well in the last two to three years,” said the BFFF chief executive.

Iceland also maximizes opportunities with strategic merchandising by ensuring high visibility, particularly for new product launches, which are often given their own dedicated cabinet and follow seasonal trends.

“We flex our flow in stores seasonally to ensure that in the summer we have plenty of burgers, sausages and ice cream and more core food groups in the winter,” said Clifton. “These trends have remained for a long time.”

Innovation

Changes in the way frozen products are presented on shelves have evolved as shelving technology has improved. Historically, boxes and bags were flat-packed. This meant that branding was hidden from the customers’ view, which negatively impacted on sales. However, there are now innovative merchandising solutions available that avoid this issue. The Next cross bar pusher system from HL Display is the perfect example.

“Next maximizes the amount of merchandising space available within the freezer for retailers who want to replace existing shelving,” explained Hill. “It creates dedicated product lanes so that empty space is minimized. Pushers attach on to a rear cross bar and feed product to the front of the fixture with branding clear and always front facing. These are key factors for boosting sales.”

This style of self-facing equipment not only helps with presentation and range visibility, but also helps stock rotation and reduces waste. Additionally, it means that staff don’t need to spend much time facing up, which reduces costs and increases sales.

Lighting

Multivo Freezer HL Display

As a naturally chillier and less inviting section in the supermarket, lighting is being increasingly used to create a more warm and welcoming ambience with greater visual appeal in the frozen aisles.

“This is particularly important to close the gap between chilled and frozen categories, because chilled categories tend to invite in-store browsing, while frozen is normally shopped on auto pilot,” said Hill.

The success of this approach is evident when comparing the performance of frozen with fresh. According to the BFFF, frozen grew at 4.7% per annum for the 52-week period ending on December 30, 2018, versus fresh which saw growth of just 3.7%.

The frozen food sector is enjoying increased sales, which can be attributed, in part, to more sophisticated merchandising strategy. With improved cabinet technology and specialized lighting, retailers have successfully managed to improve shoppers’ experiences in the frozen aisles. By enticing them to spend more time browsing, they have successfully managed to increase frozen sales. – Reported by Sarah Welsh

Retail Frozen Prawn and Shrimp Market Posts Solid Growth in Pre-Brexit Britain

Frozen prawn and shrimp product sales are doing well in the United Kingdom retail industry with big players like Iceland Foods “enjoying good growth in prawn products,” according to chain’s category manager, Gareth Thomas. From small value packs of cooked prawns and raw giant king prawns to curries and tempura, UK supermarkets stock a wide range of products for consumers to choose from.

Sykes King Prawn Finished Dish Creed FoodserviceImports account for the vast majority of shrimp and prawns sold by retail and foodservice operators in Britain. In fact, according to UK Sea Fisheries Statistics, in 2016 imports for shrimp and prawns weighed in at more than 80,000 tons, with most of it coming from Vietnam, Thailand, India and the North Atlantic. Over half of the tonnage is traded in frozen form in the retail sector, according to a recent report issued by Seafish Market Insight (SMI).

“We source our coldwater prawns from the icy waters of the North Atlantic and they are quickly frozen to ensure freshness,” said Thomas. “Our king prawns are from carefully selected farms in India and Vietnam.”

Prawns and shrimps are popular with UK consumers, who purchased just over 39,171 tons during the 52 weeks ending on January 26, 2019, equating to a retail value of £526.2 million, reports SMI. This highlights demand in supermarkets, where frozen shrimp and prawns have a 33% value share, while chilled products claim 67% of the market. However, it should be noted that much if not most chilled shrimp and prawns sold in retail display cases or cabinets were previously frozen before being slacked out.

When compared year-on-year to 2018, the value sales of total prawns and shrimps saw growth only in the frozen sector (+9.0%), while declines were experienced in both chilled (-1.8%) and ambient (-99.1%). According to SMI, the whopping drop in ambient sales “looks so out of place because the sector is such a small share in the overall prawn and shrimp retail figures – approximately less than 1%."

In terms of volume sales, chilled and ambient products recorded declines, while frozen posted a solid growth rate of +6.7%.

The volume growth in the sector can be attributed to the economic climate in which shoppers were looking to save money and frozen products offered significant savings when compared to chilled or ambient products.

Affordability could be an issue in the not too distant future, as Thomas explained:
“Brexit may have an effect on the cost of coldwater prawns entering the UK due to potential import tariffs, coupled with fluctuations in exchange rates, as almost all prawns are imported.”

An increase in the cost of imports could see volume sales stagnate, as the retail industry may be inclined to pass these price hikes onto consumers.

Sustainability

Consumers remain focussed on traceability and sustainability, which is why many of the major high street supermarkets stock certified products. Shrimp and prawn packages carrying the blue MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) label are certified sustainable.

msc logoShrimps and prawns labeled MSC come from fisheries that have been independently assessed to the Marine Stewardship Council’s Fisheries Standard. All companies using the label throughout the supply chain would have been assessed to ensure that their products are traceable back to an MSC-certified fishery.

Marine Stewardship Council partners include Aldi, Lidl, Tesco and Asda – all of which are committed to selling MSC certified seafood.

“To some consumers the MSC certification is important, which is why Iceland has been holding discussions with the Marine Stewardship Council with a view to extending their accreditation of our frozen fish and seafood range,” said Thomas.

Certification is equally important within the foodservice sector, according to Rhian Hawkings, marketing controller at Gloucestershire-based Creed Foodservice, who commented:

“Choose a wholesaler who promotes the Food for Life Catering Supplier Accreditation from the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark Scheme, which means that the wholesaler is committed to helping catering businesses improve their food quality, sourcing practices and environmental sustainability. It also means they can offer and supply products which are accredited as organic, free range or have Marine Stewardship Council certification in the case of fish and seafood.

“Caterers should look for MSC certified sustainable seafood. The blue fish label ensuring that the fish can be traced back to a sustainable source can be communicated to consumers on menus to reassure them that only the best quality chilled or frozen fish is being served.”

In the Freezer

iceland luxury king prawn alfredoAccording to Technomic, in 2018 prawns and shrimps were the top seafood species listed on small plate dishes in the foodservice sector. They were featured in many popular, on-trend menu offerings such as breaded and tempura fare, as well as linguine recipes. Such trends are very much reflected in supermarkets, with the major players offering prawn and shrimp products in all these guises.

Iceland sells a Luxury King Prawn Alfredo comprising marinated warm water king prawns with Italian linguine in a single cream, Italian white wine and lemon sauce, priced at a modest £2.69.

asda extra special prawn linguineSimilarly, Asda stocks a frozen prawn and pasta dish. Single-serve Prawn Linguine from its Extra Special range includes king prawns coated in a rich tomato sauce on tender Italian linguine topped with datterini tomatoes, selling for just £2.55 per 400-gram pack.

Asian-inspired tempura prawns are also a popular choice in supermarket frozen food aisles. Morrisons’ 12-pack of tail-on prawns in a crisp tempura batter come in at a reasonable £2, while Sainsbury’s Party Tempura Prawns retail at £2 for a pack of eight.

The frozen natural segment in supermarkets is fairly standard across the board with a selection of both value and premium products. Sainsbury’s offering includes a range of responsibly sourced cooked and raw prawns. The retailer’s basic coldwater prawns cost £2.50 for 250 grams. They are imported from Iceland, the North-East Atlantic, and the North-West Atlantic, and are responsibly sourced from a fishery that has been certified by the MSC.

morrisons tempura prawnsAsda’s Smart Price cooked coldwater prawns are sourced from Denmark and cost £2.10 for 200 grams. Its Extra Special Jumbo King Prawns cost £2.98 and come from India.

Asda states on its website: “We know that nearly 80% of the world fish stocks are fully or partly overexploited (according to the UN). We want to help protect them, which is why conserving North Sea habitats and sourcing from well-managed fisheries is so important to us.”

The latest figures show that the frozen prawn and shrimp sector continues to do well in the UK thanks to discounters such as Aldi and Lidl proving popular with consumers due to price, quality of products and regional sourcing messages. However, the impact of Brexit could burst the bubble if coldwater prawn imports from Denmark and other EU countries are affected and prices increase due to higher tariffs. Then again, as most frozen shrimp sold in Britain is sourced from Asia and thus already subject to tariffs which the market has absorbed for generations with little resistance, the overall impact on consumers’ wallets is likely to be minimal.

For now this sector is thriving, but who knows what the future holds. – Reported by Sarah Welsh

Appetite for Halal Food Strong in UK, As is Movement for Animal Welfare

Tahira halal burgers

There has been much contention regarding halal products in the United Kingdom over the last five years, with large numbers of British consumers boycotting supermarkets selling meat derived from animals that have not been stunned before slaughter.

Although current UK law requires animals to be rendered immobile or unconscious before slaughter to prevent them from suffering, exemptions are allowed that permit non-stun slaughter for religious purposes that serve Muslim and Jewish communities.

The Arabic word halal is defined as “permissible,” and the rules of slaughter are according to Islamic law. This requires the live animals to be healthy before the process of slaughtering, which is performed by a Muslim butcher who ritualistically recites a religious verse. The animal's throat must be cut by the blade of a sharp knife severing the carotid artery, jugular vein and windpipe in a quick, single slash. Thereafter it is essential for the blood to be immediately drained out of the carcass.

hmc uk logoDemand for halal food in Britain, where the Muslim population was reckoned to be 3.3 million by the Office of National Statistics’ Annual Population Survey April 2017 to March 2018, is rising. The figure is expected to triple in the next 30 years, according to projections from the Pew Research Center. Globally, and it is estimated that 1.2 billion or more Muslims strictly follow halal dietary guidelines. This is a demographic that retailers cannot ignore.

Indeed, Statista cites Islam as the second largest religion in the world, which means there is huge demand for halal products in many regions. In fact, the second largest sector of the global halal industry is halal food, with a 36% market share.

However, the method of preparation of halal meat products doesn’t always sit well with many UK residents who value animal welfare in high regard. Having said that, it should be pointed out that the nation’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) estimates suggest that almost 90% of animals slaughtered by halal procedure in Britain are stunned in a manner deemed religiously acceptable by many Muslims.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), 65% of halal meat in the UK comes from animals that have been stunned prior to slaughter. However for many Muslims this still would not be permissible to eat as it is classed as carrion, or deemed as decaying flesh, which is forbidden by Islamic law. Therein lies the problem, which is very much a case of animal welfare verses religious beliefs.

Legislation Change Sought

The RSPCA has joined forces with the British Veterinary Association (BVA) to call on the government to end non-stun slaughter without exception. In an open letter to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove, the RSPCA and BVA called on the UK government to change legislation in England to bring an end to non-stun slaughter, providing further transparency on the issue of non-stun slaughter.

Until such legislation is in place, the RSCPA and BVA are calling for:

  • Meat to be labeled with the method of slaughter
  • Non-stun slaughter to only be permitted at levels that meet local religious community demand for this type of meat
  • A ban on export of meat from non-stunned animals or live animals destined for non-stun slaughter
  • An immediate post-cut stun for cattle, sheep, goats and deer

“We're opposed to non-stun slaughter and we're calling for an end to the practice,” said Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA. “Our concern does not relate to the expression of religious belief, but the welfare of animals.”

Despite the call for a ban on non-stunned halal meat, there remains huge demand from Muslim communities, which creates difficulty for UK supermarkets keen to please customers of all faiths and from all walks of life.

Halal meat remains a controversial subject in Britain, and as such all the major supermarket chains contacted for this report declined to comment on the subject. However, the majority of them sell branded halal products from un-stunned animals.

Asda Gino pizzs Asda states: “At Asda we stipulate that all of our meat must be stunned pre-slaughter.”

However, the retail giant does sell 11 halal items under the Humza, Gino’s and Shazans brands which include Gino’s southern fried chicken popcorn and pizza products, Humza Premium Food Products’ Meat Charcoal Seekh Kebabs, and Shazans’ Meat Samosas.

Morrisons also states that 100% of its fresh branded meat is stunned prior to slaughter, although there is no mention of its frozen meat products. The supermarket does, however, offer a range of eight frozen halal products under the Salaam Foods, Humza and Allgroo brands. Products range from vegetable gyoza mandu and meat samosas to southern fried chicken pops and cooked chicken breast strips.

In its corporate responsibility statement, Morrisons declares: “We respect the fact that some religious communities want to eat food produced in accordance with their beliefs and sell branded halal and kosher products where there is strong customer demand. It's clear from the labeling that these products are halal or kosher.”

SainsburySainsbury’s also follows other supermarkets’ stance by abstaining from selling own label halal products, but offering a range of 35 halal items under the Azeem, Salaam, McCain, Smooze, Fry’s, Tahira, Humza, Gino’s, Taj, Easy Chef, Street Delights and Liberty brands. Products range from kebabs and tilapia fillets to pizza and fruit ice pops.

In a statement on animal welfare, Sainsbury’s comments: “We know that animal health and welfare matters to our customers. And as you might expect, with sourcing with integrity being one of Sainsbury’s core values, it’s very important to us too.

“Pre-slaughter stunning all the livestock and farmed salmon, trout and pangasius, which go towards Sainsbury’s brand products, are stunned before slaughter according to both regulatory requirements and current best practice industry guidance. We do not accept meat for our own brand products from abattoirs that slaughter without stunning.

“To meet customer demand, we do sell a range of branded halal and kosher meat in some stores. These are very clearly labeled as kosher and halal.”

As an international retailer operating in European and Asian markets, Tesco stocks products that appeal to its customers’ different cultures and religious beliefs. In the UK, meat components in Tesco’s own label items are sourced from animals that are stunned before slaughter. However, in a small number of stores it sells branded meat or hosts concessions that offer un-stunned halal meat. This meat is clearly labeled so customers can make informed choices.

Tesco Humza halalTesco states: “Halal food is food which is permissible or lawful according to traditional Islamic law. The description halal relates to both the type of food eaten and its method of preparation. For meat, the process requires a Muslim to recite a dedication, known as tasmiya or shahada, and can be either stunned or unstunned before slaughter.

“All our Tesco branded meat suppliers to the UK market stun the animal before slaughter, even though some of this is also processed to halal standards, the point of difference from conventionally-slaughtered animals is that the animal receives a blessing before slaughter. This allows the processors to export parts of the carcass not used by European customers to other countries, such as those in the Middle East, where demand for halal meat is higher, a practice which helps to minimize waste. As we do not specify to these suppliers that halal practices should be followed, such as a blessing, we choose not to market the meat as halal. For example, the vast majority of New Zealand lamb sold in the UK is processed to the halal standards described.”

Halal-certified brands sold at Tesco include Humza, Easy Chef, Aisha’s, Tahira and Tubzee. Products range from lamb sausages and chicken nuggets to donner kebabs and ice cream.

While the majority of supermarkets sell a small variety of frozen halal products, there still remains a large disparity between demand and supply. The retail sector is missing out on a lucrative market, it seems, from fear of public opinion. – Reported by Sarah Welsh

New Chicken Products Rule Roost of Value Added Poultry Innovation in UK

190131 newchicken graphic01Chicken has long been a staple part of consumers’ diets in Europe and North America. According to the latest figures its popularity shows no sign of waning on either side of the Atlantic. According to the National Chicken Council USA, based in Washington, DC, consumers spend around $95 billion dollars on chicken annually. This number has grown steadily over the last two years. In fact, AVEC, the voice of the European poultry meat sector, reports that poultry is the most traded meat globally, highlighting the huge consumer demand for the protein.

In the United Kingdom, poultry now makes up half of all the meat eaten by volume. Consumption is up 2% year-on-year and this follows a 4% volume uplift in 2016/17, a 5% rise in 2015/16 and 1% growth in 2014/15, reports Kantar Worldpanel.

Many high street food retailers, including UK retailer Iceland, are taking advantage of this demand for poultry by investing in own brand, value added poultry (VAP) product innovations to secure sales.

We have a 22.1% share of the UK value added poultry market, compared with our overall grocery market share of 2.3% and over 70% of sales in value added poultry come under the Iceland own label,” explained Sally Bentley, a senior buyer at Iceland UK.

Street Style
190131 newchicken graphic02Global influences and street food trends continue to drive product innovation in the retail sector, meeting increased demand from consumers for a taste of takeaway at home that they can easily prepare and eat as an affordable treat for the family.

Birds Eye UK, a unit of Feltham, England-headquartered Nomad Foods, for example, launched a range of takeaway-style chicken last November under the Chicken Shop banner. The new range of sharing boxes contains pieces of chicken combined with a variety of coatings and marinades, including Buttermilk Strips, Hot & Fiery Chunks, Maple & BBQ Wings, and Southern Fried Wings, with an MSRP of £4.

“Chicken is incredibly popular at the moment because it’s tasty and versatile,” said Markos Papavlasopoulos, senior brand manager for Birds Eye Chicken. “We’re also seeing an increasing trend towards the informal eating occasion – ‘movie nights in with friends and family’ is a prime example. These occasions lend themselves to foods that are great for sharing, easy to prepare and can be eaten quite happily with your hands.”

Although frozen chicken penetration has reached its highest point in the last three years (66.8%), according to Kantar Worldpanel, there is a still plenty of scope within the sector for further growth.

“The two biggest penetration barriers for frozen chicken are low quality perceptions and a lack of relevant propositions for consumers,” stated Papavlasopoulos. “Our new range is perfect to address these tensions and add value into frozen chicken.”

Birds Eye’s Chicken Shop range has proved a hit with consumers impressed with the quality of the offerings. Additionally, the take out-style packaging encourages people to use the products during sharing occasions.

To drive awareness of Birds Eye’s move into this new occasion, the brand has also rolled out a significant £3.5 million promotion campaign, spanning TV advertising, digital, social, in-store activations and PR.

Also keen to cash in on the global food trend is Iceland, which offers a wide range of own brand VAP products. Consumers can choose from Southern Fried Chicken and Hot & Spicy Chicken Breasteaks retailing at £2 for a 760-gram bag, four Nacho Chicken Toppers for £2, or Let's Eat American Buttermilk Chunks with Honey BBQ Sauce at £3 for 400 grams, to name just a few.

Finger foods and sharing platters are extremely popular with consumers and also tap into the street food vibe. Many manufacturers offer bite-size chicken products in a whole host of flavors and formats to appeal to consumers looking for a less formal eating experience at home.

Assurances Sought
190131 newchicken graphic03The public's attitude to ethical issues changed significantly over the last five years or so, with fast food giants such as McDonald’s, Nando’s, Domino’s and Burger King in the spotlight regarding animal welfare issues. Consumers want more assurances that the food they eat has been responsibly sourced.

“There is no doubt that the public is taking an increasing interest in welfare and ethical issues,” said Bentley. “Witness the massive response to our plastics and palm oil initiatives last year, and the strong growth of our expanding, exclusive range of vegan products. We have always insisted on high welfare standards from all our suppliers, including those of VAP.”

Traceability and welfare are important matters to consumers, which is why the retail food industry is taking note. Suppliers now offer these assurances as standard, with many highlighting their credentials online.

Birds Eye’s website, for example, is clear about the fact that their birds are only treated with antibiotics if unwell and are reared in barns, never in cages. The company can trace chickens back to the farm from which they came, and assure that they were fed only quality vegetable-based feed.

“Consumers want to be sure that all animals being raised for food are treated with respect and are properly cared for during their lives,” said Tom Super, senior vice president, communications at the USA’s National Chicken Council. “The people and companies involved in raising chickens for food share the public’s concern. They recognize that they have an ethical obligation to make sure that the animals on their farms are well cared for.”

The value added poultry products sector’s growth can be attributed not only to the demand for convenience, but also to the improved quality of products. With big fast food chains like McDonald’s highlighting their 100% breast meat message, retail outlets have followed suit with private label products.

“Health and environmental concerns have prompted many people to cut back on processed meat,” said Alice Baker, research analyst at Mintel. “However, premium products can tap into the widespread ‘less but better’ mindset to support value growth.”

The demand for VAP products shows no sign of abating any time soon, which is great news for producers. However, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union could have a significant impact on the EU poultry sector. Could this mean Brits are now stockpiling chicken wings, dippers and nuggets? Watch this space. – Reported by Sarah Welsh