Here’s a tip. Keep your eye on sweet potatoes.

Prepared and frozen, that is.

Their sales have risen 120% in just 12 months, according to the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF). Frozen fruit purchases are growing at 35% a year and diced onions for the freezer are also enjoying a surge in popularity.

What’s the connection? Health and convenience.

The meal-prep trend

People still lead busy lives but now want more for themselves and their families than oven-ready food. The potential to customise cooking through short cuts like prepared vegetables and herb/spice mixes is changing eating habits, while easing consumer guilt for previously taking the instant meal convenience option.

We’ve always liked the idea of creating a dish, using fresh and nutritious ingredients. Only now it can be quick and simple, leaving more time for leisure, including enjoying the meal as a family (according to Mintel, 60% of UK consumers agree it’s important to eat meals at the table).

 

Frozen food  – ideally positioned

Whether it’s aubergine slices or summer fruit cocktail, frozen food is ideally placed to provide both the convenient nutrition and labour saving ingredients that are powering this change in the nation’s cooking and eating habits.

Advances in technology mean techniques such as rapid cryogenic freezing and oscillating conveyor belts (the latter greatly enhances the Individual Quick Freezing – or IQF – of individual fruits and berries) are now within the reach of all food producers. Cryogenics expose food products to a liquid nitrogen gas which is over 10 times colder than a traditional freezer. This greatly speeds up the freezing process and locks in the freshness of vegetables and fruit, with dehydration reduced to as little as 0.5% .

The potential to develop new ranges of high quality, easy meal-prep ingredients is now significant.

 

Retail sales are growing

All of which helps to explain why retail sales of British frozen food have grown 3% in the last year to £5.8 billion.* They’re part of what is now an £8bn industry in the UK and the BFFF sees further potential for growth up to £10bn and beyond in the coming years.

It seems frozen food is becoming a virtuous product in the eyes of UK consumers, not only easing guilt about over-reliance on ready meals but also addressing concerns about the growing mountain of food wasted each year, as frozen produce, according to the BFFF, can be kept safely for up to 18 months, a vastly extended shelf life.

Most importantly, the ability of cryogenics’ faster freezing process to transform the frozen food industry’s productivity and throughput will ensure that the increased demand will be met, as the sector goes from strength to strength.

Today it’s sweet potatoes. Who knows what will be next year’s frozen ingredient of the month among the nation’s home cooks. Perhaps one of yours?

Could cryogenic freezing help to take your food business to the next level? The cutting-edge Cryoline® range from BOC has been designed and tested to provide superior freezing and support food innovation.

If you would like to discuss the benefits cryogenics could bring to your food business, please speak to our Food Team.