the Ice age

Frozen is a vital and growing category in the foodservice sector, and is also showing strong growth in the c-store and independent retail sectors. The most recent figures from the IGD relate to 2006 (it was finalising its 2007 figures as this feature was written) and show frozen sales in the delivered foodservice sector were worth pound;1,377m, and that even in the cash and carry sector, where it is more difficult for customers to ensure the integrity of frozen products during transit, foodservice sales were pound;87m. IGD notes that foodservice customers account for more than half (54.3%) of cash and carries’ frozen sales, and that many cash and carry operators are increasing their frozen offering for this customer group.

Some cash and carries, such as Booker, are also helping to fuel sales growth by offering multi-temperature deliveries and convenient ordering methods such as over the internet. Adrian Greaves, McCain associate director of foodservice, comments: “McCain has noticed a trend towards wholesalers using online ordering methods, similar to those used for domestic online grocery shopping. For buyers, online purchasing has a number of advantages. They are able to shop at their convenience and view a full list of products and images that a wholesaler stocks.

“A comprehensive website provides the wholesaler with an opportunity to provide added value for its customers through offers, promotions and added extras such as recipe or display ideas.”

IGD also reports strong growth in sales to c-stores and independent retailers with delivered wholesalers’ frozen sales up by 24.4% on the previous year and cash and carries up 0.9%, although these are on smaller totals than the foodservice sector at pound;171m and pound;33m respectively.

Ice cream

Figures for the size of the overall ice cream market vary depending on which market research company’s figures you use, but one trend is clear from all of them, the dismal weather last summer depressed sales in the impulse sector.

In a bid to drive growth back into the market the leading companies are introducing a range of new products as well as investing in marketing support. One of the growing trends is for ice cream variants of successful confectionery brands meaning the ice cream products also benefit from the support for the parent brand. For instance, Mars has ice cream variants of all its main confectionery lines and Bep Sandhu, Mars trade relations manager, explains: “The ice cream range will be supported by a pound;1m marketing campaign, but with over pound;42m being spent to support all brands, the whole portfolio’s profile will raise significantly.”

Looking to cater for the growing demand for indulgence, Mars is launching what it describes is its most indulgent cone yet. The Galaxy Vanilla Chocolate Temptation cone is exclusive to the impulse market and contains diary ice cream with chocolate ripples topped with Galaxy chocolate. Another exclusive launch in the impulse sector is the Starburst Smoothie lolly. Mars says both flavours, Berry Blast and Exotic Fruits, contain a high percentage of fruit meaning they appeal to adults, but adults will also feel comfortable buying them for the rest of the family.

Wall’s, Unilever UK’s ice cream brand, is also adding two new products to its out of home range and will be spending pound;1.5m to support the brand in 2008. Frutti Disc is a new addition to the Cornetto range consisting of cheesecake flavour ice cream with raspberry ripple sauce topped with a disc of fruit of the forest puree with milk chocolate. Footballissimo is a football-shaped lolly with four different whistle sticks to collect which is squarely aimed at the children’s segment of the market.

R R is another company with a stable of licensed products covering Nestl eacute;, Thornton’s, Ribena and most recently Rachel’s Organic, in addition to long-established products such as the FAB lolly. This year it is launching Thornton’s ice cream sticks in two flavours, Toffee Temptation and Chocolate Trio, looking to cater for the consumers seeking indulgence, while Ribena Smoothie is its offering for consumers seeking healthier products. Through its deal with Nestl eacute;, it is introducing a Munchies ice cream bar and the Nestl eacute; Raspberry Cheesecake stick.

Charlotte Hambling, senior marketing manager, says: “Ice cream is much more seasonally reliant than other categories and changes in the temperature can trigger a noticeable effect on sales. In terms of immediate consumption, if the temperature rises wholesalers will see a massive increase in impulse sales. Consequently, the bad summer in 2007 had an impact on the ice cream market.”

There are three key areas, says Hambling, where wholesalers can really make a difference to the profits from their freezer when selling to independent retailers:

l by focusing on the availability of the best selling brands, especially during the hot summer months, wholesalers will notice a significant difference in their sales

l supporting the key campaigns

l clear and engaging communication (signage) in the warehouse delivers further incremental benefit.

She adds: “Wholesalers need to be aware that ice cream is seen as a snack during the hot summer months, and so it needs to be given the space and signage that it deserves. Brand names are increasingly becoming a factor in the retailers’ decision-making process, so stocking the best selling brands is imperative.”

Another manufacturer producing products under licence is Fredericks. The company concentrates on the take home market with Cadbury, Del Monte and Tate Lyle products in addition to private label work. In a busy NPD programme it has launched Del Monte 100% fruit ices which it claims are the first fruit ices to bear the 5-a-day logo. Additions to the pound;33m Cadbury brand are Cadbury Dairy Milk and Flake tubs, Cadbury Strawberries Dream stick, Bournville Deeply Dark stick, Cadbury Fruit Nut stick, Cadbury Buttons cone, Bassetts Jelly Babies wobbly lollies and Tate Lyle tub.

Haagen Dazs is a brand synonymous with luxury ice cream, and the company claims that the key driving force in the luxury ice cream category is premiumisation, which it says is where shoppers are looking for a special indulgence rather than an everyday treat. Starting this month, General Mills will be launching just such a product with a limited edition Haagen Dazs Raspberries Meringue. The brand will be supported by a pound;5m marketing campaign during 2008, and will be the official ice cream supplier to Wimbledon, as well as developing links with the Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal.

Foodservice

Unlike the retail oriented side of the wholesale trade, foodservice has a high degree of own label products, most notably from the big two, Brakes and 3663. Brakes in particular has a significant in-house manufacturing operation which produces a range of ready-made frozen meals and desserts.

On the supplier side, Gerry Roche, head of sales for Young’s Seafood Food Service, comments: “There is still great potential for a strong ‘branded’ offering in this sector and we are very committed to developing new products and new initiatives for this important business sector.”

Roche says the cash and carry sector is an important supplier to the catering sector, many of whom use it on a daily basis, and adds: “Young’s Seafood very much hopes that the cash and carry channel will embrace the delivered opportunity that exists. The ‘one stop shop’ concept that has served cash and carry so well for many years, together with the convenience of delivery to catering businesses, has great potential.”

Young’s engages in promotional activity with its wholesaler customers but Roche adds: “We are looking to invest even more money in end user caterer promotions in 2008/09 than ever before. We believe it’s better to spend marketing money at the ‘coal face’ with the caterer, which builds volumes, and rewards those caterers who are loyal to the brand.”

He says fish species such as Basa, Hoki, Marine Stewardship Council Alaskan Pollock and premium quality Frozen at Sea Cod fillets are on the increase, up 20% year on year. A new species of Basa fillets (Pangasius) is being offered on a buy one get one free basis to help wholesale customers gain caterer trial.

School dinners are a substantial part of the foodservice market, but have faced upheaval in the wake of Jamie Oliver’s intervention, with new government rules on nutrition. One of the manufacturers which has come up with solutions to help school caterers is McCain.

McCain Alternatives features over 15 products including 3% fat country style chips and 5% fat oven chips and wedges, as well and pizza with added wheatgerm and fibre. McCain has also recently launched Purely Potato, a range which it says is unrestricted under the Government’s standards. The product is whole potato, peeled and chopped to create a range of wedges, slices and dice.

For other caterers McCain has the premium Signatures range, which allows chefs to offer up-market variants on chips. The latest addition to the range is Signatures Starters Sides, offering 11 products such as Potato Scoops, a scoop-shaped chip for dipping and scooping.

Frozen Food solutions are also popular in the ethnic food sector. A new range launched this month by Daloon is Devil Bites. They are pastry sticks with spicy fillings, and the first two varieties are Spicy Beef Chilli Con Carne and Vegetable Salsa, both of which are designed to capitalise on the recent growth in Mexican cuisine in the UK. They are packed in a 90x20g case, and can be deep fried or oven baked from frozen in minutes. A free sample pack of both Devil Bites varieties will be carried in promotional stock of Daloon’s Vegetable Mini Spring Rolls and Vegetable Mini Samosas from April for approximately six weeks.

Retail

The majority of wholesalers’ retailer customers have limited space in their stores, and freezers are not a top priority when BWS and the classic impulse categories have to be accommodated. Nevertheless, especially in the larger end of the independent store sector, many retailers find they can make good profits from a well managed freezer, which stocks the main brands consumers will be looking for.

Birds Eye is one of the best known frozen food brands and will be spending pound;20m this year to keep it front of mind. Since February it has launched three initiatives across its portfolio. Eat Positive is a range of four nutritionally balanced ready meals, each of which is designed to provide one of the recommended five-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables. It is also extending it burger range with two new products in time for the barbeque season. Its fish portfolio will be extended with two new sub ranges, Seaside Specials and Seaside Shapes, two new Omega-3 Fish in Sauce products and a new larger pack format of its Omega-3 Fish Fingers.

Phil Balderamos, marketing manager at Birds Eye, says: “Ready meals account for 1.6 billion meals and with consumers more time pressured than ever, this sector remains hugely relevant. Eat Positive perfectly reflects consumer trends by delivering against the big three needs: taste, health and enjoyment in a convenient way.”

Bernard Matthews is another brand that passes the recognition test for consumers. According to IRI figures for the 52 weeks to February 23, it accounts for four of the top ten selling frozen products in convenience stores, including Golden Drummers and Turkey Breast Steaks.

Bernard Matthews marketing director Matt Pullen says: “Consumers have always recognised the convenience that frozen food offers them within their busy lives, but they also rely heavily on big brands such as Bernard Matthews to provide them with tasty, affordable products which fit into their family’s healthy balanced diet. They are also on the lookout for something new and interesting and we’re continuing to drive innovation into the frozen convenience sector. The brand has exciting new products due for launch later this year which will reflect changing consumer tastes and health trends and will help to grow the category.”

Aunt Bessie’s may not have the heritage of Birds Eye and Bernard Matthews, but Heinz is hoping the ‘Delia effect’ will increase its profile. The UK’s most famous cook, Delia Smith, has included Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle Mashed Potato and Aunt Bessie’s Roast Potatoes in her latest widely publicised cookery book How To Cheat At Cooking.

“In a nation obsessed with food and celebrity chefs Delia is queen,” says Amanda Walker, marketing director, Heinz Frozen UK. “When Delia speaks the nation listens, and just one mention of a brand or type of food can lead to an unprecedented uplift in sales. We hope this will be the case for Aunt Bessie’s Frozen Potatoes.”

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