Frozen food sales have surged amid the COVID-19 lockdown period as consumers frequently turn to the freezer for a variety of meal occasions. Players in the space are tapping into new opportunities in functional ingredients, ready meal solutions and color-preserving clean label agents. Meanwhile, sustainability in frozen foods is elevated through new eco-centric packaging models. FoodIngredientsFirst catches up with key suppliers to explore these trends in detail.

“The heartland for frozen ready meals is the ‘meal for one,’ which is the core sales area across cuisines. We will continue to innovate through cuisine and health platforms in meals for one, and additionally see high potential for incremental growth through plant protein and vegetable-based meal offerings. The frozen category has a great advantage of minimal food waste risk, so combining this with our sustainable packaging strategy really increases the relevance and importance of the category,” says Ian Garrett, Commercial Sales Director at Kerry Foods.

Working closely with its supplier partner, Kerry Foods pegs its brand as the first to market in Frozen Ready Meals with the Frost Evolve fully recyclable tray. “In 2020, we will convert circa 6,000 metric tons (MT) of plastic and cardboard from landfill to closed loop recycling. We are continuing to work toward full packaging recyclability within the category and are closing in on our target as 94 percent of the packaging in our frozen ready meals business is recyclable,” he adds.

“The frozen category was one of the fastest growing categories in 2019 and has been a real go-to category among consumers during the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown period, bringing in new shoppers and increasing spending from current consumers. There are an increasing number of meal occasions being satisfied from the freezer, and this has resulted in shoppers accelerating their engagement with frozen foods.”

“At Kerry Foods we are hugely excited about the opportunities in the frozen category, specifically within our frozen ready meal business. Strong double-digit growth has been seen in frozen meat, meal components and vegetable accompaniments. Family freezer favorites, such as pizza, have also performed well. Within frozen ready meals we have seen a 26 percent growth in family and together-time meal occasions.”

Garrett also spotlights the significant opportunities to grow with bigger format family meals and details how the company will be working through brand and customer label ranges to bring excitement and choice to this area. “Scratch and component cooking are an accelerating part of the category, and the opportunity to innovate here through taste, cuisine and format is irresistible to us,” he concludes.