Frozen food in good place but challenging perceptions persist

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Ian Stone, president of BFFF, highlighted the opportunities for frozen food players in 2024
Ian Stone, president of BFFF, highlighted the opportunities for frozen food players in 2024

Related tags Food inflation Business

The British Frozen Food Federation’s (BFFF) Annual Luncheon saw hundreds of business leaders gather to celebrate the trade association’s 75th birthday at a time when frozen food sales are soaring, but low-quality misconceptions remain a challenge.

There is a new appetite for frozen food, BFFF president Ian Stone told the crowd. This follows the recent turbulent years of the pandemic and the current cost-of-living crisis, with sales of frozen goods topping 2bn tonnes a year.

Citing recent federation research, Stone revealed that as two in five consumers buy more frozen food today compared to a year ago.

“Increased numbers of consumers and foodservice operators have found what we have always known:

that frozen food provides consumers with the best value nutritional food with the longest shelf life, allowing the consumer to only cook what they want, when they want it,”​ he said.

“And for the caterer, frozen provides exceptional quality, and nutritious ingredients that increase yields and provide utmost flexibility.”

Stone’s speech marked the official 75th​ anniversary celebration of the foundation of the Federation which took place on 11 June 1948 in London. At its very first AGM, attended by just 11 people, rapid growth within frozen food was reported, with sales of frozen fruit at more than 2,000 tonnes and frozen vegetables at more than 4,000 tonnes.

“As we celebrate our 75th​ Anniversary, those 11 people who met in 1948 would be astonished that sales of frozen foods would grow to a staggering 2bn tonnes per annum; consumed across multiple categories both in and out of home,”​ Stone continued.

Despite healthy growth, the president also noted a “frustrating challenge”​, with the federation’s research also revealing that one in three Brits consider frozen food to be ‘inferior’ to chilled.

To address the challenge Stone urged the guests to engage with the next ‘Frozen Food Revolution’, a consumer facing campaign launched earlier this year by the BFFF aimed at informing, educating and engaging consumers about the numerous benefits of frozen food.

“Of course, the frozen perception challenge has been the challenge that we have faced for 75 years; I am sure that it was probably an agenda item at the that very first AGM held on The Strand.

“But, if the frozen food gift is to keep on giving, then we all have a responsibility to face this challenge head on.”

Looking to the future, Stone acknowledged the tough times ahead, with inflation predicted to stick stubbornly at 5-6% during 2024. But he also noted the opportunity the new year held for the sector, in particular, the promise of ‘warming up the cold chain’.

“Commissioned research by one of our key members, found that freezing to -15 degrees centigrade (vs -18 degrees) has no impact on food safety, texture or nutrition, supporting other similar studies in Europe and the Far East,” ​Stone said.

“Freezing to three degrees less saves 10% energy, a potential key cost saving but also another sustainability gift for frozen foods. 

“It is our duty as an industry to work together to research this and if a positive outcome, to encourage our politicians and civil servants to react quickly around legislation and regulation.”

Concluding his address, Stone revealed that this would be his last year serving as BFFF president: “It has been an honour and a privilege to be both your President and Chair for the last three years. The federation has endured challenging times, possibly some of the toughest of its 75 years. But we have come through with a fitter, stronger organisation, representing an industry that is now bigger and more vibrant than ever.”

In related news, meat-free manufacturer VFC has launched two new frozen food products following a busy year of acquisitions. 

Related topics Frozen Business Leaders

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