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04 January 2012

The final figures from last year’s foodservice market demonstrate that frozen food has performed well in a market with fewer outlets serving fewer diners

Data compiled by Horizons FS shows that the number of outlets from 2009 – 2010 remained the same, while the number of meals served fell by 1.2%. Despite this, caterers and chefs have continued to rely on frozen, which makes up 22% of all food purchases.Restaurants are especially dependent on frozen food, which accounts for nearly a third of their total food purchases.

Commenting on the results, Brian Young, director general of British Frozen Food Federation said: “It has been a really tough couple of years for the eating out sector with the recession forcing many people to cut back on luxuries like dining out of home.

“Even when consumers do venture out to eat, the competitive nature of the market has led them to expect more but to pay less. Unsustainable heavy discounting and offers has made it difficult for outlets to maintain profitability and operators are really feeling the pinch.

“Caterers have recognised how frozen food can help - as it offers a competitive price and a longer shelf life leading to less waste. Buying in pre-prepared items and complete meals also means that chefs can spend less time in the kitchen.

“Research conducted by Manchester Food Research Centre showed that buying-in frozen food can save chefs up to 33% on the cost of making the same meal from scratch, taking into account the price of raw ingredients, labour and energy costs.

“Blind taste tests also proved that top chefs can’t tell the difference between fresh and frozen with regards to a number of popular meals so chefs needn’t think that they are compromising on quality.Research conducted by Sheffield Hallam University shows that frozen vegetables contain the same - and sometimes more - nutritional value than fresh.”

The data shows an improvement on 2008 figures - when the recession was at its worst - and it is predicted that the value of the eating out market will grow over the next five years. Mintel estimate that this figure could reach up to£35,960 million in 2016.Helena Spicer, senior foodservice analyst said: “The emphasis all round is on inspiring excitement and cultivating a ‘want to buy’ mentality from diners, not just what fits in with the best price promotion that day.”

Mr Young concluded: “Operators need to entice customers in by giving them dishes that they can’t or don’t cook at home as research has shown that six in 10 diners will opt for something they don’t normally make at home. To enable chefs to provide popular foods that fall in to this category, such as seafood paella, beef en croute and risotto, buying in frozen can really help to satisfy customers without pouring hours into kitchen preparation.”

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