The canned foods giant has this week moved into frozen with the launch of its Street Food chicken kebabs. What are its ambitions in the category?

Ambient heavyweight Princes’ latest launch is a far cry from the tinned tuna and juices that are synonymous with the brand.

The Princes Street Food range, unveiled this week, comprises three frozen chicken kebabs inspired by global flavours. It’s the first time in recent history Princes has played in frozen, and the fmcg giant has serious ambitions to make a dent in the category.

But why is Princes taking such a significant step away from its ambient heartlands? What can this NPD tell us about the state of the frozen category in 2022? And should the likes of Birds Eye be worried?

Not immediately, perhaps. Princes has kept away from breaded and coated products, which means it won’t go head to head with any of the biggest branded players just yet.

“The majority of the market is breaded or coated and is quite a competitive space,” says Princes marketing director Alan Eriksen. But “we know that consumers want something more natural, healthy and versatile”.

As well as avoiding any major competition, it also opens the brand up to shopper occasions currently untapped by the frozen giants. “When you look at breaded and competitor products, they’re focused around one usage occasion, whereas ours can be an evening meal, lunch or even a snack.”


Princes burst into the freezer this week with three chicken kebabs inspired by global flavours

Princes is hoping the flame-grilled angle – its kebabs are cooked over hot charcoal before being frozen, and can be barbecued as well as cooked in the oven – will give the brand the an appeal to shoppers both in winter and summer.

“The way they’ve positioned this is really smart,” says British Frozen Food Federation CEO Richard Harrow. “There really is not a lot out there like this – especially looking beyond pure chicken fillets. Apart from in Iceland, which does quite a lot of flavoured poultry lines, but they are a bit of an outlier.”

Growth opportunity

For now, it’s unlikely to worry Birds Eye and its ilk. But Princes could prove a substantial rival further down the line. Eriksen says Princes is planning more activity in frozen. “We see it as a real growth opportunity. We want to be a key player.”

Despite the tough comparables of 2020, frozen remained strong in 2021, the total category falling just 2.2% [Kantar 52 w/e 26 December 2021]. Poultry only fell slightly more, by 4%. “Frozen has almost consolidated the gains that we got in 2020 – it’s quite remarkable,” says Harrow.

This is thanks to a growing number of younger shoppers buying frozen, who appreciate its ability to cut food waste, says Harrow. And it’s precisely for those younger, more adventurous shoppers that Princes has spent the past two years overhauling its NPD strategy.

“We see frozen as a real growth opportunity. We want to be a key player”

In a £5m investment, the company has implemented a new approach to product development. This has involved the installation of a dedicated team called Innov8, plus the founding of a panel of consumers to provide real-time feedback throughout the process.

Princes hopes the approach will change its image as a dated manufacturer, and establish it a bona-fide branded fmcg titan with its finger on the pulse of current trends. Since unveiling its plans, it has already refreshed its eponymous brand, and made strides into other hotly contested areas of food, such as plant-based.

If Princes Street Food performs well, there’s scope to expand the concept not just into further frozen ranges, but elsewhere. “It can easily extend into ambient,” says Eriksen.

With a “robust pipeline” of NPD across all of Princes’ brands planned for 2022, rivals will no doubt be watching its frozen gambit closely.