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Trends in frozen food and drink

2013 was a difficult year for the food industry. The food chain was rocked by allegations of criminality with the horsegate meat scandal, and consumer confidence took a direct hit as a result. Levels of disposable income also remained low. In spite of this, hope still shone through for suppliers, and in no sector was this more apparent than the frozen food and drink sector.

The latest research by the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF) found the frozen food market to be worth more than £5.6 billion, following 26 quarters of growth. It also suggested that 2014 is to be the year for frozen food, with the market anticipated to experience significant growth (BFFF, 2013). So why is there such a buzz around frozen food and drink at the moment, and what benefits can it offer over fresh ingredients?

Conventionally speaking, fresh fruit and vegetables are harvested, transported, sorted and then transported again to their point of sale, often taking up to 14 days before they reach the consumer. In this time valuable nutrients are lost, along with that ‘fresh’ quality so many of us buy into. Freezing fruit and vegetables locks in goodness at the point of harvest and prevents sensitive vitamins and nutrients from being lost during the transportation process. This arguably means that frozen food is often fresher than ‘fresh’ food.

Freezing fruit and vegetables locks in goodness at the point of harvest

Frozen also presents us with more choice. The availability of fruit and vegetables that have been frozen is not restricted by season or origin. Freezing allows us to pick fruit and vegetables from all over the world, with that ‘just picked’ taste experience regardless of whether it is in season or out of season.

Less time, less waste

Another significant benefit of working with frozen food, particularly for those who have to cook en masse, is that frozen fruit and vegetables require no preparation. You can use as much or as little as you want, resulting in no waste and leftovers, which is great both for the bottom line and the environment.

Perhaps the ultimate selling point for the use of frozen produce, particularly within the hospitality and catering sectors, is convenience. Fast and available all year round, frozen vegetables can be steamed, stir-fried, or microwaved to be ready in minutes. These days 20,000kg of peas can be frozen in just one hour (BFFF, 2013). With productivity and convenience levels as desirable as this, there really is no wonder why frozen peas are currently ranked as Britain’s favourite frozen vegetable.

Frozen food is often fresher than ‘fresh’ food

Nutritional value

Consumers are increasingly looking for products that offer a more authentic and healthy alternative, made from all-natural ingredients. As a result, consumers are turning to frozen food and drink, not only for improved convenience and minimal waste, but also as because of the good nutritional value frozen foods offer.

As caterers and those within the hospitality industry look to more efficient ways to cater en masse, frozen will be one of their first ports of call. With all the nutritional benefits of freshly picked food, but with half the preparation time, frozen food offers an attractive and economically efficient alternative from a business owner’s point of view.

Health-conscious consumer

Another trend we are seeing is the health-conscious consumer. Consumers are increasingly looking for healthy options when they eat out, particularly in relation to the sugar content of their food and drink. They want to know what is in their food, where it came from, how much sugar is in it and any nutritional values.

Chefs – especially those with smaller kitchens – looking for these benefits will often turn to frozen to satisfy the health-conscious consumer. Using frozen food offers the taste experience of fresh as well as all the health benefits.

“It is these benefits that can really help caterers to take advantage of the opportunity to create meals that will appeal both to the health and cost-conscious consumer without sacrificing on the bottom line and while keeping kitchen waste and costly preparation to a minimum,” agrees Brian Young, Director General, BFFF.

Drinks diversifying

Finally, the hot and cold drinks market is opening up. Consumers are now demanding more than just the traditional teas and coffees currently on offer in catering and beverage establishments. In response to demand for diversity, venues are expanding their ranges to include iced teas and coffees as well as a variety of fruity flavours. The successful launch of Frecco last year stands as a prime example of maturation of this arm of the market as well as the versatility of the frozen food and drink sector.

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