New ways to heat up sales in frozen foods

May 21, 2014

Minimize physical distractions to help shoppers focus on desirable aspects of frozen foods.

The frozen foods aisle is its own worst enemy, in a physical sense.  

If retailers and brands shattered the mold of how frozen foods are presented today and began anew, The Lempert Report believes consumers would find shopping more convenient, logical and satisfying.  As a result, departmental sales could emerge from their deep freeze (though some categories are selling well, such as meal starters, breakfast foods, vegetables, ice cream and pizza, says Nielsen).  Shoppers would be able to see and compare products more readily, make appropriate healthful choices, and conceive higher-profile roles for frozen foods as part of meals that feature fresh components.

Everyone notices some discomforts of glass doors.  The doors keep shoppers at arm’s length from products, unable to read packages without reaching in.  If doors fog, sales fall.  Doors don’t support much merchandising collateral either, which makes it harder for shoppers to spot deals from a distance.  These barriers need to be minimized.

Yet the second physical part of today’s merchandising model the industry should rethink is perhaps more important – that is brand blocking.  A particular food manufacturer might have a door or several adjacent doors of space for its varieties.  Therefore, shoppers who want to compare a specific item offered by different brands is challenged to locate, identify and read the alternative packages – and remember what the first one said.  This is inefficient, and it acts as a sales hurdle. 

The Lempert Report suggests that retailers and brands test a merchandising approach that puts all like items together.  It would be worthwhile to see how it affects sales, shopper satisfaction, and the ability to focus on what’s inside each package because of fewer distractions.  We think shoppers would more easily notice brand choices that have made advances in lowering sodium and fats, and improving ingredients overall.

The changes we suggest are tangible – obvious to shoppers every time they walk past or in the frozen foods aisle.

Meanwhile, the Frozen Food Roundtable, a group of nine manufacturers organized under the American Frozen Foods Institute, is launching its first-ever consumer campaign around the tagline, “Frozen: How Fresh Stays Fresh.”  It cites academic research it funded that “conclusively demonstrated that frozen fruits and vegetables are as nutritionally rich as, and in many cases packaged with more nutrients and vitamins than, their fresh counterparts,” AFFI president and CEO Kraig R. Naasz wrote in Supermarket News.   In a separate interview, he told The Associated Press the campaign could cost as much as $90 million over three years.