All Chilled Out….
Frozen food – the ‘X-factor’ for the foodservice industry in 2012?
With many predicting a more positive outlook for the industry over the next few years, we look at how using frozen food can help caterers achieve better margins and capitalise upon this growth potential.
In keeping with the foodservice industry as a whole, frozen food has well and truly ‘come in out of the cold’. Convenient, healthy and with a long shelf life, frozen food is ideal for caterers. Add to that the nutritional benefits and it is clear to see why frozen food is popular again. This year saw a 5.25% year-on-year increase with meat, vegetables and pizzas experiencing strong value and volume growth.
Brian Young, general director of the British Frozen Food Federation says: “Frozen products can have shelf lives of around 12 months or more depending on the product and will remain in peak condition for that duration when stored correctly. Fast and organised harvest and slaughter to freeze methods ensure nutrients and quality are locked in.”
With a predicted growth of around 1% over the next few months, food service revenue is expected to return to 2008 levels by the end of 2013. The UK’s foodservice market is in a strong position to emerge from the downturn and frozen food has its part to play.
The snobbery towards frozen food seems to have abated in the last few years as high-end restaurants have been seen to opt for frozen foods. The three Michelin starred Fat Duck in Essex is known to use frozen peas in its pea mousse. The reason is that like many other frozen vegetables, the peas are processed so much younger and faster than fresh peas.
Many chefs now realise that fresh is not necessarily best – a point made by the British Frozen Food Federation with its strapline ‘you can be sure it’s fresh – it’s frozen’.
The perception of frozen food was given a huge boost by last year’s N-Ice restaurant. Open for a week only, top chefs created their signature dishes entirely from frozen produce to show that their creations were as good as, if not better in terms of nutritional value and taste than dishes created from fresh ingredients.
For outlets without high-end chefs, frozen food is ideal as it often cuts down on lengthy food preparation that requires a high level of skill. It is due to the cost saving potential that frozen is anticipated to be big this year, with food service consultancy Horizons urging operators to innovate and keep overheads low.
Brian Young adds: “Buying frozen saves money because of competitive and stable food prices, the ability to control portion sizes and wastage and cut labour costs. This will help businesses reduce their overheads, produce more accurate pricing models and protect their profits”.
In its annual briefing report, Horizons highlights casual dining as the biggest growth area for the food service industry.
Currently worth £1.9 billion, it is expected to grow by 3% this year. Casual dining relies heavily on frozen food which enables prices to be kept low. This is especially true of ready-made meals. As Young explains: “Independent research commissioned by the British Frozen Food Federation shows that chain restaurants, managed pubs and cost sector operators can save an average of 24% buying in ready-made meals rather than making a duplicate recipe from scratch.”