March is National Frozen Food Month

March is National Frozen Food Month in the U.S. Promoted by National, Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association Inc (NFRA), this year’s theme is ‘Savor the taste of real food… just frozen’.

The idea of the focus on frozen is to promote the category to consumers by extolling its benefits. There’s good reason for U.S. retailers to embrace frozen in their private brands – it’s one area where Amazon struggle to compete as frozen produce is difficult to deliver.

Americans are buying more frozen food; after years of decline in the category, sales have returned to growth. Nielsen estimates annual U.S. sales of frozen food to be at $53 billion*.

Consumers are waking up to the benefits of frozen food such as locking in the goodness of vitamins and nutrients that might otherwise deteriorate over time as food is transported and sat on shelves. There’s the added bonus of being able to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables all year round.

Time-strapped Millennials are also credited with the resurgence of frozen. As frozen meals become more innovative and healthier, they’re an attractive proposition for dinner of those juggling a busy life.

For frozen food in 2019, predicted trends include:

  • More vegetarian and vegan alternatives
  • Meals with health and wellness attributes
  • Organic foods and natural ingredients
  • Foods with sustainability credentials
  • Clean labelling of products

There can also be a positive environmental message with frozen. With the drive to reduce plastics – often an essential barrier for ‘fresh’ products, frozen can offer more options for plastic free packaging. Plus, frozen reduces food waste.

This is a great opportunity for private brand retailers to assess their frozen lines and innovate to meet these trends. Retailers should collaborate with their suppliers to develop frozen products which appeal to busy shoppers who don’t want to compromise on flavor and their health. Here’s the chance to develop something new and win footfall over competitors.

This is easier said than done and to do so successfully requires a collaborative relationship with suppliers, as opposed to the more common transactional kind. The 2017 Food Marketing Institute Power of Private Brands research looked at this topic and pointed to the importance of treating suppliers as partners:

 “True innovation requires collaboration between retailers and manufacturers on product development, but the private brands industry has a special challenge in this area.  Manufacturers are hesitant to develop deep partnerships without bigger retailer commitments. Retailers need to agree to longer term working relationships to justify manufacturer investments.”

To achieve the level of collaboration required for NPD success, retailers should employ supplier engagement techniques. We’ve seen great success in speeding up the NPD process for private brand retailers when they start to work together with suppliers as one team. You can read more about that is this case study: Affinity™ helps launch private label products 10% quicker.

Kelly Cookson

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