FD Buyer: ‘Frozen’ Means ‘Cheap,’ Right?
Commentary by Warren Thayer
Through a special arrangement, presented here for
discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Dairy Buyer magazine.
even try to get that item into the frozen food department. It’s
a great product, but it’s too pricey and shoppers will never buy it here.
Why don’t you chill it and sell it over in deli or dairy? People aren’t
afraid to spend money over there.”
Basically, that’s what a frozen
food buyer told a vendor pal awhile ago. He’s not upset about it — in
fact he appreciated the candor. It led him to offer the same item in both chilled
and frozen versions, at the same price point. It’s now selling five times
faster in its chilled form than it is in frozen.
“Pocketbooks open up wide for fresh foods along the perimeter, but as
soon as you get to the freezer, shoppers zip up their pocketbooks and want
everything on the cheap,” the vendor said.
For the most part, he’s
right. It’s really hard to get a quality
item with decent (expensive) ingredients into the frozen lineups. It’s
even harder to keep it there. Frozen foods have dug themselves a deep hole
over the years, selling cardboard TV dinners and hockey puck pot pies “at
a value.” Most shoppers grew up with low expectations for frozens, and
those expectations have been met.
We’re getting some truly high quality,
healthy items in there now, but it’s hard to get shoppers to realize
that. “Frozen foods” are
still a synonym for “cheap” and “junk food” to too
many consumers. Both the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association
and the American Frozen Food Institute have been battling this perception for
decades, and with some success.
But perceptions aren’t going to change
until reality changes. Reality will start to change once we get a higher percentage
of quality offerings into the lineups, and make shoppers aware of them.
may not be as risky or as impossible as it seems. Every retailer is out to
differentiate today, but most of the effort gets put against the same low-end,
high-velocity “value” items that everybody sells “at a price.”
changing overnight would be suicide. But if it were my store, I’d
be slowly mixing in more of these higher-quality, unique items that would set
me apart from competition. I’d demo them, promote them and tweak offerings
depending on customer response. Best practice retailers are already doing that.
Discussion Questions: What should retailers or vendors be doing to overcome
low quality perceptions around frozen foods? Can you name any food retailers
that are successfully merchandising higher-priced frozen offerings?