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Current Position:Home » News » Processed Foods » Topic

Freshly frozen follows trends on market, but image problem persists

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2018-07-02  Views: 10
Core Tip: The freshly frozen segment in Dutch supermarkets is still (unjustly) struggling with the image that the products aren’t fresh.
 The freshly frozen segment in Dutch supermarkets is still (unjustly) struggling with the image that the products aren’t fresh. Compared to neighbouring countries, Peter van Riessen of Ardo classifies the Dutch retail market as “challenging.” The supply follows the same trends as in the food sector: healthy, convenience and organic. These can also be seen reflected on the frozen shelves in supermarkets. The discussion about sustainable packaging is also not lost on the frozen sector.

“Dutch supermarkets focus on unprocessed and cooled fresh produce, but it’s purely the consumer’s perception that unprocessed and cooled products are fresher than freshly frozen products,” Peter sums up the challenges of the sector. “This is also in comparison to the image among professional users, such as gastronomy, who praise the freshness, flavour and convenience.” Changing this perception among consumers can be achieved by, for example, moving along with trends on the market.

Three to four years ago, smoothies appeared in assortments, which was picked up by the freshly frozen sector with an assortment of smoothie fruit, both for a snacks and for breakfast. For about a year now, more movement can be seen on the market, and vegetables are replacing carbohydrates. Cauliflower rice and broccoli rice are no longer just found on the fresh shelves, these mono-products also have a freshly frozen version, and some ‘richer’ vegetable rice mixes with herbs and oils, among other things, have now also been added to the range. “This trend is more obvious in the US and surrounding countries, but it’s also emerging on the Dutch market, more and more interest in this can be seen here now,” Peter says. The newly developed vegetable mixes also clearly reflect the health trend. Super foods, with a higher average nutritional value, are used in these products increasingly often. “You can see that happening in the fresh segment, and it’s now also offered in many products in the freshly frozen segment.”

Small freezers, small packaging
While most households in the Netherlands have a freezer with two or three drawers, most households across the border have a large chest-type freezer in their sheds. “In Belgium, for example, consumers do their shopping once or twice per week. In the Netherlands, consumers don’t have to think that far ahead. After all, we have a very high supermarket density in the Netherlands,” he exemplifies the difference between these two markets.
This difference can also be seen in packaging. German and Belgian supermarkets offer freshly frozen products in packaging of one to one-and-a-half kilos. In the Netherlands, these packaging can only be found in some supermarkets. Packaging of between 400 and 800 grammes are primarily seen. “We know the products in smaller packaging are often consumed the same day they’ve been bought, but of the larger packaging, part of the contents are often kept in freezers for longer periods.” Research shows Dutch consumers aren’t keen on even larger packaging. Consumers think it’s important to have options between these two versions.

Vegetable square and e-commerce
The high supermarket density in the Netherlands and retailers’ focus on unprocessed and cooled fresh produce products mean this is a challenging market. “Freshly frozen is often found near the exit of shops,” Peter says. “In Spain, the Mercadona has a vegetable square where freshly frozen and tinned vegetables are offered next to unprocessed and cooled vegetables.” A supermarket chain in North Holland is experimenting with a similar approach. “This is a good development, because it offers consumers more options between freshly frozen, tinned and cooled.”

In e-commerce, the different categories are offered alongside each other. Looking for green beans, for example, in web shops, you’ll find them both unprocessed, cooled, freshly frozen and tinned. “Consumers immediately see what’s available and that prices of freshly frozen are very appealing, resulting in fair competition between the products,” Peter explains. The freshly frozen fresh produce branch works together to better inform consumers and to improve perception. The persistent misunderstanding that freshly frozen products are less fresh, however, is proving difficult to dispel. “After all, we’re growing in the most optimum climate zone, harvest at the ideal moment, and the product is processed into a freshly frozen product within a few hours. All nutrients are preserved in this process.”

The freshly frozen products are available year-round at stable prices. “Because of this, consumers can eat much more variedly throughout the year,” Peter says. “I sometimes see fresh strawberries and raspberries in Christmas flyers, for example, at high kilo prices, while strawberries and raspberries are also available freshly frozen at lower prices.”

Meat replacers in freezer
Vegetarian products, such as vegetable or quinoa burgers, are now also available in a freshly frozen version. One of Ardo’s factories has been completely set up for the production of these vegetarian meat replacers. “This is a fairly recent trend in Europe,” Peter continues. “This segment is booming in cooled. We translated this into freshly frozen, which now offers a very high-quality assortment.”

The discussion about less salt and sugar also plays its part in the freshly frozen segment. “Supermarkets are emphatically working on this, particularly in private labels, as they should. Various supermarket chains work closely together and put much energy in lowering the salt and sugar contents.” This is a process of getting used to something for consumers. Like it was impossible to suddenly sharply reduce the salt content in the bread sector, the freshly frozen sector is also choosing a gradual reduction. “In the end, consumers should have the option to decide for themselves whether to add seasoning such as sugar and salt if necessary,” Peter says.

A final product trend mentioned by Peter is the rise of organic products in the freezer. “This trend can be seen throughout the food sector,” Peter explains. “Eventually, we want to offer organic products at the same price as conventional products. However, this does require more technical progress within the production.” Price appears to be a high threshold for consumers. Research shows that many consumers want to buy organic products. However, when they’re confronted with the prices in supermarkets, only a minority actually purchases organic products.

Less waste and sustainable packaging
“Portionability of freshly frozen products is a very important reason to buy for many consumers. Consumers want to prevent food waste more and more. This is very much possible with the freshly frozen supply,” Peter says. “In cooperation with some retailers, we recently researched the user-friendliness of the packaging among their consumers. An important conclusion of this was, among other things, the wish for resealing the packaging, so that after using part of the contents, it can be placed back in the freezer to prevent the waste of fruit and vegetables.”

Waste in the field of packaging plays a part in the same topics of discussion as in food: less waste and more sustainability. The sustainability of packaging is high on Ardo’s agenda. The discussion of environmental taxes on packaging is already being held in various countries. Some retailers would like to completely refrain from using film packaging in the long term. “We want to make packaging as sustainable as possible,” Peter concludes. “We, as a manufacturer, feel our responsibility in this, and together with our partners we’ve already taken the first steps in this.”

keywords: frozen products
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