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The French have long looked down on what the British eat. It’s telling the French dictionary Larousse defines ‘à l’Anglaise’ as “boiled or steamed”.

Thankfully for the Brits, the French are deigning to rectify the problem via some gastronomic delights in the frozen aisle.

Last November, Tesco began a trial partnership with French frozen food chain Picard, stocking around 20 SKUs in branded bays with signs reading ‘Say bonjour to food lovers!’ and ‘Bonjour to evenings with a French touch’.

“It is yet another example of UK grocers looking towards partnerships as a way of driving footfall and differentiation,” said IGD global insight director Bryan Roberts at the time.

Tesco has yet to say how well the trial went down. But it is not the only supermarket with a French connection in frozen.

Ocado stocks a wide range of frozen products from Picard, including fruit, vegetables, pizzas, marinated meat and pastries. And M&S rolled out 25 Picard products in July 2020 – including Ham & Cheese Galettes, Mini Croque Monsieurs and Tarte Tatin – after reporting 85% growth in frozen sales in the first lockdown.

Such moves are a sign of the esteem in which Picard is held. The brand “is known for exceptionally delicious dishes that taste so good you would never believe they weren’t homemade”, according to M&S product development director April Preston.

Even fellow brands are complimentary. “I have always admired what Picard does in pre-prepared frozen,” says Milly Bagot, co-founder of posh frozen ready meals brand ByRuby.

She sees the Tesco partnership as “a huge step” for frozen. “European consumers view frozen fruit & veg as a better choice on many occasions, particularly in relation to seasonality,” she adds.

Some smaller retailers are taking note. Bagot points to Field Fayre for its local sourcing and quick freezing. “They do a great job with pastries, cookies and desserts,” she adds.

And for Picard, its frozen credentials have opened the door to a wider grocery presence. Last April, the retailer launched three Welcome to the Kitchen concept stores across Paris, which go beyond frozen to include ambient and chilled products, in-store bakeries, wine and non-food items. It plans to roll out the concept across its estate in France this year.

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