Opportunity for frozen vegetables in health-focussed diets

In Australia, producers of frozen vegetables are missing an opportunity to help consumers create high-quality, home-cooked healthy meals without sacrificing time. More Australians are starting to prioritise eating more healthily, and to do so, market research specialist Mintel has information from its surveys that points to increasing fruit and vegetable intake. This is done by following a balanced diet, and cooking more at home, as key steps in this journey.

At the same time, Australians want to make room in their lives for other priorities, such as cultivating strong personal relationships and enjoying social occasions – activities that they understand are important to their health in other ways.

Currently, Australians tend to have frozen vegetables on hand for side dish emergencies. However, these products can actually be promoted to do more – frozen vegetables can act as a shortcut for consumers who are trying to balance many things in their limited time, including eating well. Frozen vegetables provide a solution for time-strapped, yet health-focussed consumers, to create semi-scratch meals that contain lots of vegetables, while still eschewing the processed foods that they seek to avoid. Frozen vegetables are the solution to helping Australians achieve their goal to cook at home more often.

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While Mintel research shows that almost half of urban Australians say they like to cook, the time taken to prepare for cooking, especially when using whole, fresh vegetables, could be better spent on other pursuits.

Enter speed-scratch or “semi-homemade” cooking. This concept, championed in the US by Food Network host Sandra Lee, instructs home cooks to use partially prepared foods to create dishes that feel like they are scratch-made.

Frozen vegetables are suitable for this, especially as they are already washed, peeled and chopped, and often come without the need to be defrosted before being added to a recipe. Positioning frozen produce as a partially prepared ingredient offers consumers a way to prepare something convenient at home without relying on processed foods – something that over two-thirds of urban Australians say they are looking to avoid.

Frozen vegetables can help home cooks in Australia create inspired, intentional meals that are rich in plant-based ingredients by clearly showing consumers the different ways that they can be used. Adding recipes and usage suggestions on pack is an approach that has worked well for the frozen fruit category. For instance, frozen fruit brands have included recipes and usage suggestions for smoothies on pack. These suggestions give consumers more ideas on how to use frozen produce, and they position frozen fruit as a product that consumers would purchase for this purpose.

By taking on a similar strategy, frozen vegetable brands can encourage consumers to buy their products more often than just something to have at home as a backup or emergency side dish.

In addition to helping consumers see frozen vegetables as a speed-scratch solution, brands need to overcome the perception that frozen is lower quality than fresh. This is especially true as Mintel research indicates the importance of freshness to Australians, with over half of them ranking it as the top attribute they seek in food.

However, according to Mintel Purchase Intelligence, a tool that measures consumer reactions to and purchase intent of food and drink products, Australians are unconvinced by the freshness of frozen vegetables. This reflects how frozen vegetable brands are not telling a strong story that communicates the freshness that these products can offer. While many brands use snap-chilling, and do mention this on pack, most are not using their packaging to talk about the benefits of quick freezing in preserving the quality, flavour and nutrition of vegetables. Telling a more dynamic story about freshness and quality can raise the value perception of frozen vegetables, especially when combined with convenience messaging.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Goodness Kitchen offers a good example of how these types of vegetables can communicate freshness and quality. The product uses bright colours and a see-through cut-out that reveals the product inside, which are aspects that set this packaging apart from the many bags and boxes in the frozen aisle. In addition, it uses the back of the pack to tell a full and engaging story about the company and its practices.

Goodness Kitchen talks about organic farming, freshness, nutritional quality and how frozen veggies help to reduce food waste. In an aisle where low price drives purchase intent, communicating the added value one product offers over another could open consumers’ minds to the fact that price is just one element of the value equation.

Brands in Australia have not fully exploited the chance to communicate the freshness and quality of frozen vegetables. There is the potential for these brands to show consumers that frozen products can empower them to achieve their health goals by helping them eat more vegetables, avoid processed foods and cook at home more often with less effort.