the big freeze

Despite a challenging economic environment which is seeing many sectors suffer at the hands of cost-cutting consumers frozen food is on the up. That’s the view of Brian Young, director general of the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF). He says: “At the BFFF annual conference in February, Kantar Worldpanel statistics showed that retailers saw a 5.8% year-on-year spending increase in frozen food compared to a 4% increase in fresh expenditure over the same period.

“Recent research from Sheffield Hallam University showed that families can save more than pound;400 per year on the 10 most popular food purchases by switching to frozen. Frozen food offers better value access to nutritious food which helps to maintain demand in times of financial downturn, making it an ideal choice for wholesalers.”

Young adds that frozen continues to buck the economic trend in foodservice. “The recent Horizons FS 2011 review suggested that while the number of meals served out of home in the UK fell by 1.2%, caterers and chefs maintained their reliance on frozen food, which continued to make up 22% of all food purchases.”

There is lots of activity in the frozen potato sector both in retail and foodservice. McCain Foods is giving consumers the chance to win pound;100,000 via its latest on-pack promotion, which is called Lucky Spuds. However, its big launch into retail is that of McCain Ready Baked Jackets, which the company says combine the taste and smell of slow oven-baked jacket potatoes but are ready to eat from frozen in just five minutes.

Mark Hodge, McCain Foods head of brand, says: “Our Ready Baked Jackets will revolutionise jacket potato eating in the UK and introduce a new way for consumers to purchase their favourite meal in a more convenient format. We expect them to be a massive hit as they taste fantastic and meet a genuine consumer demand for a healthy, quick and easy-to-prepare jacket potato that still delivers oven-baked flavour and aroma.”

In foodservice, McCain is launching Gastro Chips. They are described as “delicious golden brown, chunky and premium hand-cut style chips with a unique taste and texture” and have been created to help caterers drive profit and upgrade their menus.

Made from 100% specially selected British potatoes, Gastro Chips have been developed following research that identified strong demand for a consistently great tasting, premium chip that is quick and convenient to prepare and helps to reduce waste and preparation time.

Donna Rowbottom, McCain Foods marketing manager, explains: “Preparing quality chips from fresh potatoes, and on a consistent basis, is very labour-intensive, particularly when large volumes are involved. The study showed that for a kitchen to prepare and serve 12 batches of chips, the process takes just over three hours, while preparing the same amount of McCain Gastro Chips takes just over one hour. This is a huge and potentially very valuable saving for any operator, particularly when considered over the course of a whole week or more.”

She adds that McCain Gastro Chips can be stored frozen or chilled, which gives caterers greater flexibility and is ideal for outlets with limited freezer space.

To demonstrate the qualities of Gastro Chips first hand, McCain is asking operators to take on the ‘Hand Cut Chip challenge’. A video detailing the challenge and how to get involved is available on www.mccainfoodservice.co.uk.

The company is also is running a ‘Golden ticket’ promotion, which gives caterers who purchase a case of Gastro chips the chance to win one of 100 gastro foodie-themed prizes.

But McCain is not the only company offering premium chips. Aviko says its new premium ‘Skin On’ Superlong Fries have been introduced to capitalise on increased consumer demand for premium fries with a real point of difference. There are also new Herb Diced Potatoes with parsley and basil. They have been created to be used as a main meal accompaniment or as a side dish.

Meanwhile, for caterers seeking chip shop-style chips, McCains has added Chippy Chips to its Classics potato products range. Made with 100% British potatoes, they are said to deliver a true chip shop chip taste through an irregular, hand cut style chunky appearance and a moist internal texture.

In retail Birds Eye says its has drawn inspiration from high street bakeries and the chilled sector for its latest launch Pastry Bakes. These are pastry cases with a 100% chicken breast centre and a “full flavour sauce”. There are two varieties: Creamy Cheddar amp; Sundried Tomato and Spicy Tomato amp; Red Pepper. The launch builds on the brand’s success in the frozen pie market. Whereas overall sales of frozen pies returned to modest growth last year, Birds Eye experienced 13% growth, outperforming the market (Nielsen Scantrack and Kantar Worldpanel data).

Ice cream

With Easter comes the official launch of the ice cream season, and Anthony Wilkinson, marketing manager for Kerry Foodservice, reckons wholesalers should stock an ice cream mix to take advantage of growing demand for ‘freshly served’ ice cream that is accompanied by dessert syrups and inclusions.

“We are seeing the fastest growth of sales for our Kerrymaid Ice Cream Mix through the cash and carry and wholesale channel and are fully committed to showing the sector support and helping to capitalise on this market. As a result, we have point of sale kits for distributors that can accompany the sale of Kerrymaid Ice Cream packs,” he says. The product comes in 12 x 1litre tetrapacks and can be stored ambiently until opened.

In wrapped ice creams, Magnum the number one ice cream single (SIG data) has a new variant called Infinity, which brand owner Unilever is describing as its biggest ice cream launch ever. There are two varieties Chocolate and Chocolate amp; Caramel both of which are made from a rare source of cocoa from Tanzania. Both varieties are available in take-home packs of three ices with a recommended retail price of pound;2.99 while the chocolate amp; caramel flavour is available as a single for impulse outlets with an RRP of pound;1.75. The launch will benefit from a pound;10m marketing investment, including the brand’s largest digital spend to date.

The Cornetto Enigma range is being boosted with the addition of a cookie variant. It comes in bright orange packaging for better stand out in ice cream cabinets. Recommended retail price is pound;1.50. It will be backed by a pound;1.9m marketing campaign including a TV ad to support the launch, which will air in June.

R amp;R is launching the Nestl eacute; Lion ice cream bar in a pound;1 price-marked pack. Also new is the Rolo Cone, priced at pound;1.10. Then there’s the new Maxibon Cookie at pound;1.60. The Maxibon brand benefits from high consumer awareness thanks to its popularity with holidaymakers in mainland Europe, where it is widely distributed.

In a further move, R amp;R Ice Cream has linked up with Yoomoo frozen yogurt to launch an ‘on the moove’ range for impulse retailers. It comprises 150ml single-eat tubs with spoons in the lids, as well as a scooping offer.

R amp;R has a seven-strong range of core impulse products that it recommends independent retailers stock. For 2012 it is: the new Nestl eacute; Lion ice cream bar; Fab; Rowntree’s Fruit Pastille lolly; Nestl eacute; Smarties Pop Up; Thornton’s Toffee Temptation; Ribena ice lolly; and Mr Happy Milkie Lolly.

New from Frederick’s Dairies is Cadbury Nuts About Caramel stick. With a recommended retail price of pound;1.60, it is described as “the most indulgent stick from Cadbury ice cream so far”. The company also has a new licence to sell Britvic branded ice creams. The first lines are R Whites lemonade lolly (RRP pound;1) and Robinsons Fruit Shoot blackcurrant amp; apple squeeze-up, also pound;1.

The big news in the premium ice cream sector is Ben amp; Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs’ launch of ice creams with a saucy core centre. Ben amp; Jerry’s offering is called Core, and comes in three varieties: Karamel Sutra, Dough-ble Whammy and Berry White. The launch is backed by a pound;5m marketing campaign which brand owner Unilever says is Ben amp; Jerry’s biggest media spend to date. Activity includes heavyweight TV support which hits screens this month.

Meanwhile, H auml;agen-Dazs’ version is Secret Sensations. There are two flavours Chocolat Fondant and Cr egrave;me Br ucirc;l eacute;e. The products come in 100ml cups, either in a twin-pack or as individual units for impulse purchase. The launch is supported by a pound;1.6m marketing campaign including TV advertising, digital activity, an in-store support programme, consumer sampling and PR. Another new line from H auml;agen-Dazs is mint leaves and chocolate ice cream.

Over at Mars, the emphasis is on the Mars and Snickers ice cream brands. According to IRI data, Mars is still the number one selling ice cream bar in the UK and delivered over pound;15m-worth of sales in 2011. The company reckons sales will be boosted this year by the halo effect of Mars’ role as Official Supporter of the FA in Euro 2012. Meanwhile, the Twix ice cream bar has a new improved recipe.

A new entry into the retail take-home market is Joe Delucci’s with five 500ml tubs in Madagascan Vanilla, Nocciolata, Chocolate, Dulce de Leche, and Strawberry varieties.

Joe Delucci’s has already established a successful chain of branded outlets in major shopping centres, selling to date, an estimated 11 million scoops of ice cream. Ex-Morrison’s ice cream buyer Mike Lewis is now working with the firm. He says: “Joe Delucci’s strong presence in the eating-out market will provide the base for retail sales. The ice cream will also appeal to foodies as it’s imported from Italy and brings the delicious taste of real Italian ice cream, something missing in retail. Too many retail products now are swamped with fatty inclusions and sticky sauces and you can no longer taste the actual ice cream in the tub.”

Belfield is adding two new ice lollies to its Ice King range. The Push Up comes in Cola, Orange and Strawberry flavours and, with six to a box, will retail for pound;1 per pack. The twin stick Double Licker features two lollies-in-one which can be pulled apart for sharing. It is Orange at the top and Blackcurrant at the base and also retails at pound;1 per box, for eight.

Belfield director Ian King is confident the products will prove popular with independent retailers. He says: “Last year we launched the four-flavoured Spiral lolly, which became our fastest selling water ice product ever. We believe that’s down to having the right pricing policy, making it an attractive option for independent retailers, but also in having the flavours and novelty factor which makes it fun and tasty for the young customer.”

He adds that the wholesale channel is a “significant and growing” part of the company’s business. “We have worked hard to develop relationships with both the large-scale wholesalers and the smaller independents,” he explains.

“We tailor support to buying groups or individual wholesalers. We generally offer product promotions dependent upon specific customer requirements so, if a wholesaler is keen to progress a theme or a specific product, then we will work with them to develop a relevant promotion.”

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