Forget the widget! Frozen food is the best thing since sliced bread, according to an exclusive consumer survey for The Grocer.

Asked by market research company HI Europe to name the top grocery innovations of the past century, shoppers put frozen food at the top of the list, pasteurised milk second, sanitary towels third and microwave food fourth. The findings suggest that the much-maligned category is more popular with shoppers than assumed.

Alf Carr, director general of the British Frozen Food Federation, said: “I’m delighted and a little surprised. The survey indicates that shoppers see the freezing process as very innovative and that the industry should spend some money to strengthen that view.”

Attacking the “voluble foodies” who criticised frozen food, he said that the industry had been “stupefied by chilled foods”.

He added: “The survey tells us that frozen food has not exploited its perception with consumers as much as it could have. It is almost as if it has an inferiority complex. A renaissance is due and I hope it is at hand.”

While frozen food was popular across the board, there were clear differences of opinion between older and younger shoppers, the former identifying instant coffee and the latter bagged salads as key innovations.

The main factors behind their choices were convenience and price, said Caroline North, senior researcher at HI Europe. She added: “Older shoppers appear to appreciate innovation more than young people who don’t appreciate that 10, 20 or 30 years ago, the grocery landscape wasn’t like that.”

*See Analysis page 30 & 31 in this week’s issue of The Grocer for the full feature: “Eureka”.