Attendees at the second annual British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) conference in Warwickshire heard that frozen food performs best in a recession because it is seen as the cheap option. But that image hampers its long-term success.
"The UK has the highest per capita consumption of frozen food in the world, yet some of the most negative perceptions," Glenn told delegates. He referred to recent consumer research indicating that significant proportions of shoppers saw frozen food as poor quality, too highly processed or less tasty than other types of food. One shopper even described frozen food as "dead food in a box".
Supermarket frozen food aisles still failed to communicate and promote different frozen food sub-categories effectively and seemed outdated in comparison with other areas, he said.
Offering high quality and convenience would help counter this negativity, said Glenn. "I'm convinced frozen is set for strong growth in the UK provided we deliver on the convenience story and the no compromise message."
More shoppers also needed to understand that, according to research commissioned by the BFFF, frozen food is more nutritious than fresh, he said.
He said Birds Eye would pursue a potential £350M worth of growth in frozen food sales by 2015 "by improving the quality of food and the shopping experience".
Certain sectors were best suited to enhancing the category's long- term prospects, said Glenn. For example, Kantar Worldpanel figures showed frozen food value growth outstripped inflation at about 5%, but frozen fish sales had grown by 28% over the past five years.
He predicted strong performances from "the things frozen does best vegetables, fish, poultry. Frozen pizza and potato products also had great potential". However, he said the perceived speedy preparation and convenience of chilled food had damaged UK frozen ready meal sales. In many European countries, shoppers were happy to take 25 minutes to oven cook a frozen ready meal. "In the UK, that would seem like an eternity. It's got to be microwaveable."