In the week the company unveiled "the most dramatic investment in frozen natural vegetables in decades", it also announced it was ceasing pea production in East Anglia. Birds Eye MD Anne Murphy said the cancellations had resulted from the loss of a "substantial" pea supply contract to Unilever Italy in December.
"We have been looking at viable alternatives but sadly there were none," said Murphy.
She claimed the news would not affect the 15-week £5.5m above-the-line campaign for Field Fresh that kicks off this week.
The TV ads will focus on Birds Eye's Field Fresh guarantee that claims its veg are frozen within two and a half hours of being picked to "lock in" more vitamins. Viewers will also be educated about the field-to-fork process, which Birds Eye hopes will help to emphasise the claim that frozen veg retain more vitamins than fresh.
Birds Eye Iglo CEO Martin Glenn said the frozen industry had to work harder to highlight the benefits of frozen food.
"The truths of the benefits of frozen haven't been told to a generation of shoppers and we've seen less growth in frozen veg than our poultry or fish. When you tell people about how frozen locks in vitamins they are converted on the spot. Only Birds Eye can guarantee that we pick vegetables then freeze them so fast."
Glenn was confident the new campaign would help Field Fresh more than meet its first-year sales target. "Based on the pre-advertising rate of sale, we think it will exceed £15m," he said. "Advertising was massively significant for Simply Bake to Perfection and I expect the same for Field Fresh."
Over the past year, volume sales of frozen food have been flat, while value has risen 4.6% to £5bn [Kantar Worldpanel].
A Birds Eye view: a Q&A with chief executive Martin Glenn (6 February 2010)
Editor's Comment: Is debt ever good? Birds Eye is more effective under private equity than in a huge multinational (6 February 2010)