Where most manufacturers have tended to extend their ranges by trading on consumers’ increasing interest in other cultures, bringing in exotic ingredients to spice things up, one of the biggest success stories of the frozen food sector has been achieved by staying close to home.
BFFF boss Alf Carr describes Aunt Bessie’s as the “flagship of frozen foods” and, as the fourth biggest frozen food brand behind Birds Eye, McCain and Young’s, the specialist in traditional fare is certainly outperforming the market, claiming 17% year-on-year growth and value sales of more than £127m.
Owned by Tryton Foods, the Aunt Bessie’s brand was launched in 1995 with frozen Yorkshire puddings, initially created in 1974 for a Butlins Holiday camp.
There are now seven variants of Yorkshire puddings and the range of other meal accompaniments includes
roast potatoes, honey-glazed parsnips and stuffing balls.
Tryton Foods commercial director John Hendy says: “Aunt Bessie’s is a strong brand because it has an emotional bond with mums.” He adds that roasts are seen as wholesome meals and Aunt Bessie’s has “very clear” nutritional guidelines. “There are no additives and we follow the government guidelines on fat and salt - we’re looking to reduce levels.”
The company also has an interesting take on marketing its products in-store, encouraging retailers to promote roast meal deals. Says Hendy: “If you buy a number of products for a certain price, it encourages usage across the range and increases penetration.”
He suggests that all the components of a roast dinner - including potatoes, stuffing, Yorkshire puddings and desserts - should be placed together in the freezer section with joints of meat or chicken.
RHM Frozen Foods is taking a similar approach to Tryton with its new range of Bisto Mash Topped meals, which trade off the close relationship the UK consumer has with the Bisto home-cooking-style brand.
Based on the Bisto gravy sauces launched last year, RHM has developed three meals - Cumberland sausage in an onion & ale gravy topped with creamy chive mash, beef in rosemary & red wine gravy topped with creamy chive mash, and chicken in cracked black pepper & roast garlic with creamy mash.
“Introducing well-loved brands into this category is an ideal way of bringing a greater level of attention to the fixture,” says RHM.