Last year, Covid tests were mandatory before entering the British Frozen Food Federation’s annual luncheon. The prospect of a large-scale event felt risky, and the Omicron variant was just about to wreak further havoc.

Yesterday’s event for the frozen food industry – held at Hilton Park Lane, London, and attracting 750 attendees – felt far more celebratory.

Sure, Covid has given way to a mountain of other problems. BFFF president Ian Stone used his speech to highlight the challenges of political turmoil, rampant inflation and the Ukraine war.

But an underlying note of optimism prevailed – at least, when it came to the industry’s prospects. “I believe that we, the frozen food industry, are perfectly placed to be part of the solution, not part of the problem, for the difficult times that lie ahead,” Stone argued.

“For the consumer, frozen foods can surely be the star turn of the cost of living crisis. We provide the highest-quality, best-value nutritional food that has the longest shelf life, reduces waste, and allows consumers to only cook what they want, when they want it.”

Stone pointed to the BFFF’s well-timed campaign in September, which highlighted how frozen food can curb food waste and save cash.

Granted, these are hardly new points. The frozen industry has long been banging the drum on its value and longevity credentials, while looking to shatter its associations with beige food and stodgy TV dinners.

Despite all this activity, sales had remained relatively static, until the necessities of the pandemic prompted a near £1bn boom.

As consumers started to eat out more, the last year has seen an understandable thawing in frozen sales. As there has of course in a number of grocery related categories. But that’s true only to a limited extent. First, sales suggest many shoppers who bought into the frozen category during Covid have stuck around.

Second, the necessities of the cost of living crisis may prove just as compelling as those of the pandemic. The attributes of value for money and minimal waste are no longer a nice-to-have but more a need-to-have as food inflation reaches its highest level in 45 years.

Already, retailers are battling it out to offer the best frozen Christmas dinner. Amid warnings around the worst avian flu crisis ever, and with reports of turkey prices soaring, Iceland boss Richard Walker has been busy pushing its frozen turkeys – prices of which have been, ahem, frozen – on Twitter. But this message goes well beyond the frozen food specialists.

Asda has ratcheted up the frozen focus this Christmas with the launch of an all-frozen Christmas dinner deal for just £22 – taking the fight to Tesco, which was the first to introduce a bargain frozen Christmas dinner meal deal for under £25. No doubt these offers will appeal to the 61% of big four shoppers looking to cut back on their festive food and drink spend.

If more frozen food can earn a place at the Christmas table, it could be a watershed. Sales of frozen turkey rose last year to over 30% as shoppers hedged their bets over a possible Omicron-based change of plan.

This time round, the well-publicised promise of shortages, and news that fresh turkeys will have to be frozen and defrosted (to avoid avian flu) means switched-on shoppers will realise there’s now no difference. As the centrepiece of the Christmas meal, frozen turkeys can shine a spotlight on frozen like never before.