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As both niche and international manufacturers have been busy on the R&D front to develop frozen foods that meet the needs and palates of today’s consumers, the cold, hard truth is that drawing shoppers to the frozen case is imperative in getting them to buy — and keep buying — products.
To spur supermarket browsers to open the freezer doors, grocers, manufacturers and industry as a whole are devising and executing a variety of promotions that encompass traditional elements like coupons, signage and media campaigns, along with some unique efforts.
The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NRFA) is putting muscle behind its work, in anticipation of National Frozen Foods Month in March. Along with point-of-sale materials made available to retailers, Harrisburg, Pa.-based NRFA is dropping a national free-standing insert (FSI) to a 20 million circulation in Sunday newspapers across the country at the beginning of March, with the tagline “Take a Fresh Look at Frozens.” A $10,000 consumer sweepstakes and a Facebook Freezer Giveaway (sponsored by St. Louis-based refrigeration equipment company Hussmann) are part of the 2015 National Frozen Foods Month program, too.
NFRA is also providing members with an idea book featuring more information on the promotion and how they can maximize it through their own initiatives. Meanwhile, the organization’s direct conduit to consumers includes “Easy Home Meals,” a year-long social media presence on its Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages.
In another bid to reach out to consumers, NRFA has assembled the Cool Food Panel, an online community comprising various food and lifestyle industry bloggers who will regularly share recipes, trends and ways to find and enjoy frozen food. According to the association, its collective communications programs have generated nearly seven times more impressions for frozen foods over this past year than the previous year.
Likewise, the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), in McLean, Va., is continuing its multiyear, multimillion-dollar category education and promotion initiative, Frozen. How Fresh Stays Fresh. The program includes TV and print advertising, along with online engagement and both in- and out-of-store promotions that will take place this year and in 2016.
At the store level, beyond campaigns from national industry organizations, retailers can deploy various tactics to engage consumers at the freezer. Mike Paglia, director of retail insights for Boston-based Kantar Retail, says that a mix of traditional and new promotions can help generate excitement in frozen foods, which have experienced flat or declining sales in recent years, with the exception of some new product segments. “All of the tried-and-true approaches around promotions will never go away, but in an age when we are seeing a landscape with shoppers responding to increased demands for value, particularly differentiated value beyond price, other approaches will be important. Just having a good promotion isn’t going to cut it anymore,” he asserts.
More effective and creative cross-merchandising is one way to go above and beyond. “There are a couple of things you can do,” notes Paglia. “Certainly, cross-merchandising is a real value, particularly if you’re cross-merchandising with private label. If you’re a supplier, that is a win-win, because both the supplier and the retailer are getting a bit of the lift on the [cross-promoted] items.”
Cross-promoting with fresh or prepared foods that may at first seem competitive with frozen foods is another way to give a jolt to frozens. “There is something to be said for the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ maxim,” he points out.
Retailers can also boost their sampling programs to get people to take a new look at frozen foods. “At first, you might think a frozen meal is tough to sample, but there’s a lot to be said for setting up a demo table in the freezer aisle and saying, ‘Here, try this, and here’s where you can find it.’ That is an important experiential element,” says Paglia, adding, “Retailers and suppliers will say that adds labor expense, and that’s true to an extent, but if you can calculate the life or return on investment, then it’s worth it.”
More explicitly sharing the benefits of frozen foods to shoppers is another way to promote and move such products, notes Paglia. “It’s important for the supplier to demonstrate the relevant or incremental value of a product. In frozen meals, it may be the extra time spent with your family around the dinner table because of their convenience, or how a frozen meal might be better for you than going out for fast food,” he remarks.
Howard Waxman, analyst for Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts, agrees that new ways of thinking about promotions are just as important as coming up with new products. “Out-of-the-box is the right direction,” he declares.
According to Waxman, even a little humor goes a long way. “Put a video screen next to the freezer case or a next to a demo table where someone is cooking frozen snacks or appetizers, showing things you can do while waiting for your frozen snack to be ready — like dancing to the ‘Minute Waltz’ — and things you can’t do — like reading all of the book ‘War and Peace,’” he quips.
“Frozen meals’ incremental value may be the extra time spent with your family around the dinner table, or how a frozen meal might be better for you than going out for fast food.”
—Mike Paglia, Kantar Retail