Drive Shoppers to the Freezer Door

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Maximizing momentum and making strides within the frozen food category.

By Jack Acree

Education has been a longtime challenge for frozen brands, but lately, the eager-to-learn, adventurous consumer has allowed brands to re-approach their shoppers with a broadened perspective.

While re-thinking the frozen food aisle can (and oftentimes does) present challenges for brands, retailers and shoppers, the benefits of growing the freezer section of the grocery store is well worthwhile. With strategic heavy lifting, brands can engage shoppers in a new way – the key to driving foot traffic to the less traveled paths across those aisles.

Larger CPG brands understand that there is already an evolution happening in the frozen food aisle, particularly where entrées are concerned. The frozen items that have helped to revamp the category cater to mainstream America while cleaning up their ingredient panels. Simultaneously, helping consumers explore their culinary interests through ease and convenience is the meal kit phenomenon.

Even with this upward movement, what strategies can brands consider in driving shoppers to the freezer door? There are three primary ways leading brands do so:

1. Recognize where your brand can innovate The ice cream category has been a prime example of innovation. We can recognize that the brands succeeding are those that are innovating. Brands like Talenti that pursue interesting flavors within their niche – in this case, gelato – can capitalize on consumers’ growing interest in the ‘new and exciting’. While innovation like this commonly prompts other brands to mimic, it also has the power to effectively sharpen all other brands within the category, inspiring continued evolution through competition.

SR ChickBeanCrisps 3.5oz ChiliLime 01 300 1346x20002. Play the long game Food is highly emotional. We associate nostalgic memories and personal experiences with specific flavors and smells. Because of this, shoppers are looking for ways to connect, whether through the product itself or through the values touted by the company. Serving short-term needs that fall in line with the trendiness of a diet, ingredient attribute or cultural interest put a brand’s long-term sustainability at risk.

Instead, in an effort to transform the frozen aisle, playing the long game is something brands with a layered story, like Saffron Road, do well. One thing in particular the brand focuses on is where it sits in relation to the world and global cuisine, overall. Further proving this desire for complete authenticity is Saffron Road’s “menu tested” entrées, dishes that are proven to resonate with consumers. Mirroring this strategic approach to introducing shoppers to new flavor profiles – and even new ingredients – are similarly focused worldly brands who let their SKUs be inspired by ethnic menus. Beyond introducing these new and awe-inspiring flavors, however, this positions frozen meals as much more than a means to an end. Today’s leading frozen brands are able to tie their products to an eating experience.

3. Identify your blind spots The frozen vegetable category has also taken it upon itself to innovate and, therefore educate, shoppers about the true potential of the frozen category. At its launch, Birds Eye’s Steamfresh Vegetables, for instance, not only provided a straightforward bag of broccoli, but also promoted excitement and promoted repeat sales with value added. This was a refresh the category needed.

Knowing how to innovate so that shoppers view the frozen category with a renewed perspective can be a blind spot for brands. In that the modern consumer is beginning to understand they are interested in organic foods but are also somewhat value-conscious, helping them understand they’re getting the freshest product available when they invest in frozen is paramount. Brands can work to dispel the myths of the frozen aisle by using the resources at their disposal to let consumers know state-of-the-art technology is used to freeze the food, effectively preserving the nutrients within it.

Through retailer support, as well as strong strategic tactics behind public relations, digital, social media, web and experiential marketing, the category can reshape itself into one that is magnetic to shoppers.

The battle between the peripheral aisles and the center aisles is lessening, but with diligence, many of the barriers that once kept consumers from entertaining frozen are disintegrating. In fact, the innovation rooted in an interest in maintaining authenticity has continued to melt misconceptions.

Jack Acree is the executive vice president of Saffron Road Foods. He has been in the natural foods business since 1990 when he was part of the founding team behind Terra Chips. Since then, Acree also helped launch ALEXIA Foods in 2002, then Saffron Road in 2010. He enjoys helping new food entrepreneurs, which lead him to the Board of Directors of the Specialty Food Association where he regularly participates in The Basics program – an intensive all day seminar for new food business owners.

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