With the frozen food sector vulnerable, why is packaging not used to greater effect? Analysis by Allison Miguel, creative head at Coley Porter Bell The frozen food category is vulnerable to the burgeoning chilled food sector and to the fact that people are cooking again inspired by the likes of Delia Smith. It is also under threat with fresh food prices tumbling, and suffering thanks to its format. Frozen food is everything a design team should be encouraged to avoid ­ packaging products rather than creating brands. Just why is it that greater efforts are not made to persuade people of its advantages and appeal? There's a boring generic language in the design of frozen food packaging that makes it more, not less, difficult for consumers to make a choice. A pie always has a slice taken from it, pizzas trail stringy cheese and if you have any breaded fish ­ put it on a fork, bite the end off and take a close up shot. Combine the above with heavy colour coding, a big logo and voilà, a frozen food pack. Relying on this formula for design means brands can be easily copied, loyalty disappears and packs have to be redesigned constantly. So how do you capture your consumer? First, don't be afraid to challenge convention. Would Ben & Jerry's have succeeded had it featured ice cream clichés ­ sundae dish and obligatory wafer? Secondly, don't bombard consumers with too many messages and attention seeking devices. Every pack is covered in meaningless copy: freshly frozen, quick frozen' or crispy, succulent, crunchy, tastes as good as fried'. The overall impression cheapens the brand and demonstrates a lack of imagination. There are more interesting and creative ways to communicate product advantages through design, without spelling it out. You might think brands have to shout to gain attention from the depths of the freezer chest. But consumers slow down when they reach these aisles. They've come to buy frozen food, so your product being quick frozen' goes without saying. More important is to communicate the emotional advantages of your brand as the consumer slowly browses the sector. Make a virtue out of the real motivators of the category ­ flexibility, freedom and choice. To match its irreverent advertising, Iceland's packaging has taken on a unique look, combining witty ideas about the products with original copy. Its choc ice range shows the Mona Lisa gradually smiling as she eats, with the line enough to bring a smile to anyone's lips'. Its potato waffles are designed as a space game to attract young consumers and the Indian and Chinese ranges capture the freshness of takeaway food. This combination of language and image also communicates a subtext ­ frozen takeaway as the epitome of convenience. Although few market manufacturer brands have taken such bold steps as Iceland, Sara Lee has added wit to chocolate cakes by using both sides of the pack and playing up the idea of more-ishness through clever typographical detail. Dolmio has re-entered the frozen food category by creating a range of trattoria' style products, again tapping into the values of freshness and convenience. The design takes the identity of the parent brand, a window into Italian cuisine, using texture, colour and evocative photography. McCain has created a bold pack for its oven chips ­ a single giant chip ­ but it is spoilt by distracting copy. While most other brands are using packaging to innovate, frozen food appears to be stuck in the past. But by using original packaging, brands can become far more desirable and distinctive in a cost effective way. There are many imaginative ways of presenting frozen products in the market while focusing on consumers' needs, apart from the obvious need to prevent the product melting before it reaches the consumer's home. Frozen food brands need to regain credibility and confidence in the food chain and crawl out of the ice age. {{FOCUS SPECIALS }}