Vidar Engen is managing director of Findus UK and was previously marketing director for Findus in Norway. He's been in the frozen business for a while now and, having struggled through the declines of the past few years, he's optimistic, yet realistic, about the future.
Is this a good time to be in the frozen sector?
The sector has been in decline for many years. It's growing again now, but margins are under pressure, especially now with soaring raw material prices.
What's behind the growth in the sector?
It's being driven by several things. The quality of frozen food is good and consumers are understanding that. There's also been a lot of investment from the big brands. It's the brands that are driving growth.
At the same time retailers are seeing less growth in chilled than they are used to; they are used to chilled being in double-digit growth but now it is declining. We have stopped some of the migration from frozen to chilled and are starting to reverse it.
How can growth be maintained?
Customers have told us they don't try frozen food because they can't see what's inside the pack and they believe that it's not as good for you nutritionally. That's why we launched the Novelli range, to show people that it is simple food, just frozen.
What's more, research shows us that one-third of buyers of chilled products freeze those products when they get home anyway.
How are the stores responding to your initiatives and growth in the market?
We've been talking to retailers and there are going to be some sharp price points. We've got the quality and great value proposition but the average price of a frozen ready meal is £1.30 to £1.35. You can't get a coffee in Starbucks for that.
I don't believe £2 is too much - part of the problem is that if it's too cheap, customers won't trust it.
What is the one thing you would like to achieve with Findus?
I'd like Findus to have the same place in consumers' mids, hearts and meals as it did in the 70s and 80s.