Taking advantage of Ice Age opportunities

26/02/2018 People passionate about the frozen foods industry gathered at a Business Conference to see how they could all work towards expanding the sector.

Informative and fascinating presentations were made at the British Frozen Foods Federation event, which was held in Birmingham. BFFF Chief Executive, John Hyman, is pictured right, welcoming delegates to the event.

Speakers from companies such as Iceland, Birds Eye, IGD, Scotch Whisky Association Kantar Worldpanel and more spoke to a captivated audience of like-minded business people.

Kate Forbes of Birds Eye began the day with talking about the company’s commitment to promoting the many benefits of frozen foods and its passion about growing the market.

It was a theme echoed later in the day by Bev Mitchell, of Iceland. She spoke about how the company was refurbishing stores and introducing new concepts in a bid to promote frozen foods.

She also spoke about the growth of online, and Iceland’s innovative partnerships that were being forged to encourage new customers into its shops.

Andrew Roberts, of Bidfood, started his presentation by saying that the sector was perceived as being in the Ice Age, but that was actually far from the truth. He told delegates that there were many opportunities to convince customers of the many benefits of frozen, in particular its freshness and health benefits.

He outlined his thoughts on how best to get the messages across, to customers and to companies such as gastro-pubs. From pricing, costs to taste, and flavours, he suggested there were opportunities for the industry to take advantage of.

IGD’s Nick Downey spoke about opportunity too - and in particular in relation to the convenience sector. Frozen could play a huge part in convenience, with some consumers valuing convenience over other drivers, such as cost.

Adrian Gahan, a former Conservative Party advisor, gave an interesting line: “If you’re not around the table, you’re on the menu.” He was speaking largely in relation to the ongoing Brexit situation, and he urged the sector to plan to assume Brexit was going ahead in some form. He urged delegates to contact their local MPs, asking for reassurances that senior politicians and government departments were planning properly for Brexit, with concrete ideas for IT infrastructure, highways, and new, trained officials.

Graeme Littlejohn, from the Scotch Whisky Association delivered a presentation that focused on how Brexit offered issues, but actually the organisation was already looking at growth markets elsewhere and therefore Brexit could in fact encourage opportunities being taken in other territories. There were major markets in India, China and Brazil for example, but there were fast-growing markets in Kenya, and Nigeria also.

Economist Roger Martin-Fagg gave his extremely useful insight into the economy, and how it relates to the frozen foods sector, particularly when household incomes were stretched.

Chris Hayward from Kantar Worldpanel told delegates retail sales pre-Christmas were up 13 per cent, with premium own brand doing particularly well. He cautioned that while Christmas was largely good across the board, consumers were more and more checking their pennies and spending wisely. He ended by saying that the frozen foods market was worth £6bn, and that it was growing more quickly that chilled and fresh.

Simon Stenning, from MCA, was keen to point out the fact and the fiction from media reports, citing examples of “bad press” that wasn’t exactly correct. For example, he said if a chain closed one restaurant, there was little mention of the remaining outlets or the growth of another brand. The eating out market, he said, was growing - providing a great opportunity for frozen foods.