Getting shoppers to spend any time in the chilly freezer aisles has always been a major problem for the category. As Kitchen Range Foods head of marketing David Young says: “Traditionally most people spend one hour in-store and one minute in frozen.”
Retailers and producers alike have struggled to address the problem, but Unilever Partners for Growth has come up with a series of tips, based on national average sales data and shopper research, to help retailers maximise opportunities.
James Simmons, Unilever’s trading director for frozen food, points out: “The frozen aisles are no more cold than the chilled aisles, but we create a cold and clinical perception in frozen. Making sure the right amount of space is available has a big impact on availability because the shelves are kept full.” He applauds Asda for
“fundamentally reinventing” the frozen category by rearranging the space and adding simple and clear signage.
But beyond getting shoppers to spend time in the section, frozen has also had a problem with non-availability. However, British Frozen Food Federation director general Alf Carr sees light at the end of the tunnel.
Tesco introduced a colour-coding scheme 18 months ago, grouping products along commodity lines to make it easier for them to be sorted in the back store.
Says Carr: “Since then, BFFF has talked to the major retailers. Sainsbury, Asda and, very recently, Somerfield have all decided to go down the same colour-coding route.
“It gives the opportunity to get the right products to the cabinet first time around - everybody’s doing it and they’re doing it in the same way, which makes for an efficient supply chain.”
He adds: “There’s more work to be done on the name of the product and the clarity of the outercase. We feel retailers will move towards more shelf-ready outer packaging. That will be the next big thing for frozen foods and it will get the product into the cabinet - there’s nothing more disappointing for customers than going for a run of products and finding three or four of them are not there at all.”
According to RHM, the issue is not to encourage people to spend more time in the frozen aisles, but to make them more aware of the products available. Work carried out by the company suggested consumers have a limited knowledge of the breadth of frozen ranges and, as a result, consumers nearly always regard any new product advertised as being chilled.