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There may be cold on their minds, but there certainly won?t be a chill in the air at the annual National Refrigerated Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Convention, slated for Oct. 11?14 in Orlando, Fla. Despite the sultry locale, the meeting allows those in the frozen and refrigerated food industries to meet personally and talk about ideas that maximize innovation and success across relevant categories.
The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) bills the event as such, nothing that it ?isn?t your typical industry meeting.? Major industry players are on hand for four days of one-on-one and larger meetings, with participants including manufacturers, suppliers, logistics providers, sales teams and retailers.
1,300-plus Executives to Attend
?The NFRA Convention offers a unique opportunity for frozen and refrigerated industry executives to come together to conduct face-to-face business meetings with multiple trading partners over a three-day period. There is no other event like this for our industry,? says Jeff Rumachik, EVP and COO of the Harrisburg, Pa.-based trade organization, noting that interest in such interactions is particularly high. ?We are excited about this year?s NFRA Convention, as our registration numbers are heading toward record territory. This year, we will have over 100 meeting rooms and expect more than 1,300 executives from the frozen and refrigerated industry to be in attendance.?
Such personal and often back-to-back business meetings between industry parties get right to the point of issues facing those who produce, deliver and sell frozen and refrigerated foods. That?s pivotal in today?s climate, given increased competition for the consumer food dollar and current sales and consumption trends.
?Meeting face to face is the most effective way to build relationships in our industry. However, it can be a very expensive way to conduct business when done in a traditional way,? notes Rumachik, who emphasizes the appointments? multifaceted value. ?In today?s business environment, where companies are cutting back on travel and every expense is scrutinized, the NFRA Convention offers the opportunity to conduct business in a more efficient manner that saves everybody time and money.?
Indeed, money and time are top of mind for many in the industry right now. Recent research shows that sales of some types of frozen foods are flat, declining or only minimally growing. For example, sales of frozen meals in the United States were down 3 percent between 2009 and last year, according to research from London-based Euromonitor International. In its most recent report on frozen meals, Mintel predicted that the category will continue to experience annual declines through 2016, a trend that the Chicago-based market research firm attributes to consumers? dining out more frequently and tight competition in the large frozen meal category.
Meanwhile, burgeoning consumer interest in fresh foods may be helping siphon sales from frozen into other fresh food categories. A report in The Wall Street Journal this past summer attributed declines in frozen foods to shoppers? interest in buying and preparing more fresh foods.
All that aside, there are some brighter spots within the frozen sector. Sales of frozen snacks, appetizers and snack rolls are close to $2 billion a year, according to Mintel, which also found that frozen snacks are popular among younger consumers, who seek innovation, convenience and value. Frozen breakfast is another area of opportunity: Chicago-based market researcher IRI reported that overall sales of frozen breakfast foods reached nearly $3 billion, up 6.7 percent from the previous year.
Even within frozen meals, some frozen food manufacturers have found success by tapping into consumers? penchant for bold flavors, gourmet ingredients and perceived freshness. Frozen ethnic food brands like Saffron Road, for example, are growing in sales and portfolios, as are organic brands like Kashi and Amy?s Kitchen.
Refrigerated foods, meanwhile, encompass a broad variety of products, ranging from dairy products to packaged meats to juices and scores of other items. Those involved in refrigerated foods can benefit as well from business meetings at the NFRA Convention to increase their respective sales, efficiencies and innovations.
Core Sales Drivers
As they evaluate demand, challenges and opportunities, NFRA Convention attendees can bear in mind that the current drivers of sales remain, at the core, straightforward. According to a 2014 food and health survey from the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC), taste has a significant impact on 90 percent of food and beverage purchases. Behind the overriding taste factor, other important drivers include price (73 percent), healthfulness (71 percent), convenience (51 percent) and sustainability.
Rumachik observes that frozen and refrigerated foods play right into such product attributes and consumer demands. As he notes: ?Frozen foods are made from real ingredients prepared by chefs and then frozen to keep them at their quality, nutrition and taste peak. The industry is offering exotic flavors, choices for every lifestyle, and innovative packaging that provides a home-cooked experience.?