When tough trading times and tumbling sales are the order of the day, the need for companies to focus on driving innovation, value and new product development is paramount. However, all parties agree that this is something that, until recently, the frozen food industry has been sorely missing.
"Consumers are fed up. Innovation, which is the very lifeblood of the industry, has totally dried up," says Paula Wyatt, senior brand manager for Chicago Town pizza. "Most of the 'new' products on the shelves are not new at all. It is simply reinvented stuff that we have all seen before. We need to give consumers a real reason to buy frozen products throughout the year, and not just because they are on promotion."
Chicago Town is attempting to do just that with its new range of thin and crispy pizzas. The launch has been backed by a further £2m execution of its 'A million miles from Humdrum' ad, and aims to drive trial of the product in 2.5 million homes.
Another pizza brand that is keen on adding value is Goodfella's, with its Goodfella's Solos. Adrian Mooney, Goodfella's marketing manager, is adamant that Solos - a range of restaurant quality individual pizzas - are the "biggest innovation the frozen pizza market has seen in three years". A number of new players have entered the frozen food market over the past 12 months, all of whom have brought fresh and exciting new ideas. Bakery and cake products are the big news this year, and frozen pastry brand Jus-Rol from General Mills is claiming a rare success story, with sales up by more than 6% in the past year [IRI 52 w/e 22 April]. In response to the need for adding value to the fixture, Jus-Roll recently introduced two new premium positioned products - all-butter puff and shortcrust pastry block.
Tryton Foods is taking the Aunt Bessie's brand in an exciting new direction with its new range of ready-to-bake cakes and cookies, launched in March. The company anticipates that the range will add £50m to the market and create a totally new category within the frozen food sector.
RHM frozen also plans to warm up frozen sales with the launch of a new range of bake-from-frozen morning goods. Christina Richardson, McDougalls brand manager at RHM frozen, says: "Home baking straight from the freezer is quick and easy, giving consumers extra reasons to shop the fixture."
Meanwhile, Swedish desserts manufacturer Almondy is preparing to take the cheesecake market by storm by adding lemon and raspberry to its range of premium cheesecakes, which it says do not contain artificial preservatives or colourings. "The retail cheesecake market has been in decline for some time, due chiefly to a lack of innovation and downward pressure on price," says Andrew Ely, general sales manager. "We believe the new Almondy range will inject fresh interest into the market."
The company is also bringing well-known brands to the freezer category to add further value, recently launching a range of Daim and Snickers-branded frozen desserts.
Health will be a key driver this year, as more companies clean up their acts. "If frozen brands can deliver premium indulgence without artificial ingredients, consumers will again trust this sector," adds Ely.n