A new study commissioned by frozen food giants Birds Eye and Iceland has indicated that the acceleration of frozen food’s revival during the UK lockdown is set to continue, and create long-term changes in shopping habits. With more shoppers than ever being drawn to the category since mid-March, the results of the exclusive study highlight value for money and reduction of food waste as two of the main reasons that the popularity will remain.
The collaboration between Iceland and Birds Eye reveals how habits have changed, with the freezer becoming a firm favourite with younger shoppers. Over a quarter (26 percent) of 18-24-year olds are buying more frozen equivalents of their regular fresh items and almost a third (31 percent) are trying new frozen foods such as meat substitutes. Generation Z has been paving the way during lockdown and is making frozen fashionable again, with 40 per cent of 18-24 year olds stocking up on more healthy frozen options like frozen vegetables, fruit, meat and fish.
As attitudes towards food continue to develop, with people spending more time in the kitchen and cooking from scratch, a third (33 per cent) of all UK shoppers are using their freezer more efficiently with a further one in five (21 per cent) including more frozen foods in their cooking. The stats indicate this could be a long-term trend as almost a quarter (24 per cent) plan to continue buying more frozen food after lockdown.
The cost saving potential has been highlighted as one of the key benefits that frozen food has over fresh alternatives, with one in five (21 percent) highlighting how frozen items can be better value for money than fresh, and 17 per cent agree they can get far more for their money from shopping frozen.
New data from a previously unreleased study by Manchester Metropolitan University, which analysed the financial impact of families eating fresh and frozen food, found that frozen offers around a 30 per cent saving in comparison to fresh; and the average family could save a whopping £1,500 a year by incorporating more frozen food into their food shops. With over a third (34 per cent) of shoppers planning to tighten their purse strings when it comes to food shopping after lockdown, frozen food is set to be a regular fixture on the nation’s shopping lists.
Further research commissioned by Birds Eye and Iceland before lockdown took a deep dive into consumer shopping habits and found that over £188 million worth of food was wasted nationwide each week. For every £1 spent at the till, more than 15p was money down the drain due to the amount of fresh food thrown away. 85 per cent of consumers expressed a desire to reduce their household food waste, but a quarter of those admitted to not knowing where to start.
But it seems that lockdown has given shoppers the time to reflect, with 47 per cent of those polled expressing they are far more conscious of the food that their household is wasting since March, with the figure rising to over half (54 per cent) of 18 – 24-year olds. When asked why, the top reasons were becoming more aware on what they are spending on food (48 per cent), avoiding unnecessary trips to the shop (44 per cent) and being more conscious of the food that is being wasted collectively (39 per cent).
When it comes to food and shopping habits, the resilience and adaptability of British shoppers has led them to find the silver lining. Over a third (34 per cent) plan to be more considerate with their money, 19 per cent have become more adventurous with their cooking and a quarter (25 per cent) are spending more mealtimes together as a family.
Saving money by switching from fresh to frozen, does not mean compromising on health, in fact, a quarter (25 per cent) of shoppers have eaten more frozen vegetables in lockdown than they did before, with peas, sweetcorn, carrots and broccoli taking pride of place in freezers. 14 per cent have even increased their vegetable intake during the lockdown months thanks to the convenience of frozen, with the number rising to 17 per cent for 18 – 24 year olds; an age bracket traditionally known as being less likely than other adults to get their five-a-day.
“People are more concerned than ever before about the effects of food waste on the environment. Being at home so much recently has given them more time to cook and enjoy food and made many realise that frozen offers an ideal way to buy food which is not only healthy, with less additives, but also produces minimal food waste," says Richard Harrow, CEO at The British Frozen Food Federation. "I believe that as consumers discover the huge range of products in the frozen aisle, they will be delighted by the quality, value and diversity of what’s on offer and keep coming back for more.”
“It’s clear that whilst lockdown has brought many different challenges, new frozen shopping habits have emerged to help us save money and reduce food waste, whilst still enabling us to enjoy great quality and delicious food. The research also shows that many of us are making healthy food choices and adding more goodness to our diet – with shoppers actively buying more frozen vegetables," says Steve Challouma, General Manager UK at Birds Eye. “We’re excited to see shoppers discovering the many benefits frozen food including the interesting and tasty products on offer, and how they can be enjoyed on their own or used in creating delicious recipes. As households become even more conscious of their spending, we expect this behaviour to continue.”
“We’ve been passionate about the benefits of frozen food for decades, and frozen has never been more relevant than today. Many families have taken positive learnings from lockdown, and we recognise that families are looking to reduce both their household spending and food waste more than ever before. We believe that simple switches to frozen food can help to make a real difference, without any need to compromise on taste or quality," says Richard Walker, Managing Director at Iceland. “The recent findings highlight the positive role frozen food can play, and we look forward to inspiring more and more families to make the switch to frozen as a permanent change.”