Not So Frozen Innovation & emerging codes of frozen food
Once banished to connotations of processed food with low nutritional value only useful for TV dinners, frozen food is getting its cool back. What are the emergent codes of the frozen food category that are effectively driving this shift?
- A Taste of the Outside
Emergent frozen food offerings are enabling experiential discovery from the comfort of your own oven. Marking the brand’s entry into the frozen aisle, Princes’ ‘Street Food Range’ offers flavoursome variety.
Its trio of kebabs take inspiration from different Asian cuisines, with tertiary colours on-pack and detailed flavour language (‘tangy’; ‘nutty’) signalling nuance and complexity. Brushstroke, textured effect pack backgrounds and roughly stamped font styles communicate an attempt to recreate the unique, handmade imperfection of street food experiences.
Longstanding players in the frozen food space, McCain’s’ ‘Street Fries’, and M&S supermarket’s own brand ‘Dirty Fries’ are also tapping into this interest in recreating Out Of Home (OOH) eating experiences at home.
These brands’ pack designs push the consumer experience further by piling ready-to-cook chips into trays, a format emulating eating from handheld plates in markets. These trays are wrapped in transparent plastic, making self-proclaimed ‘dirty’ and ‘loaded’ ingredients openly visible to the consumer, signalling the messy realness of street food. Overall, these brands are emergently blending adventurous flavours and creative formats, coding proximity to street food experiences, without the inconvenience (and cost) of actually eating out.
Fast food chains are also responding to this shift, introducing their own frozen ranges and bringing the appeal of OOH restaurant experiences closer to everyday consumer lives.
TGI Fridays’ frozen range uses on-pack imagery of food plated on wooden slabs with iconic red and white striped paper to code freshly served flavour, suggesting the eating experience will transport consumers to the experience of being served prepared dishes within the restaurant space. Pushing beyond the expected frozen goods of burgers and fries, sushi restaurant chain YO!’s frozen range extends to Katsu Bao Kits, Gyoza and Teriyaki Fried Chicken. Consumers construct fillings onto bao buns, heat sauces separately in hot water bowls to pour over meat and sprinkle gyozas with water for optimal cooking – all by themselves. The use of ingredients and formats which require more consumer engagement than simply throwing packets into the oven promotes the frozen food experience from one of monotonous, insular disengagement to DIY participation with global tastes.
- Quality Freshness
The frozen food category is shifting the weight of the word ‘frozen’ and its stigmatic associations with cheap, low quality and highly processed contents by aligning with cultural codes of culinary freshness.
Mindful Chef bring their existing equity as a meal kit service, providing fresh ingredients and ‘nutritionist-designed’ recipes, to compete in the frozen food space. The word ‘chef’ in the brand name, paired with stylised, artistic renditions of ingredients on-pack and hyper-specific reference to ‘British gras & forage fed beef’, elevates the frozen food experience to communicate refined, expert makership practices.
Similar to Mindful Chef’s on-pack gluten and dairy free health credentials, brands like Clive’s Organic and Strong Roots build their plant-based frozen food offerings around codes of natural goodness.
Clive’s ‘purely plants’ proposition suggests an untouched, unprocessed rawness to the ingredients which challenges existing scepticism around the nutritional value of frozen food. Similarly, the ‘Strong Roots’ name, and brand logo featuring a shovel, suggest products with ingredients that have been freshly dug from the ground. Instead of showcasing steaming hot, cooked meals plated on-pack, both brands use photographic imagery to hero raw ingredients to communicate trustworthy authenticity; frozen food is reinvigorated by these on-pack cues to reveal the healthy contents at its core.
3 key takeouts for brands
- Take inspiration from the outside world of gastronomy – from global flavours to streetmarket formats.
- Step into offering multidimensional experiences which encourages consumers to engage autonomously with the in-home frozen food cooking experience.
- Reinvigorate on-pack cues to champion fresh, expertly crafted ingredients, moving away from the stigma of highly processed contents.
Lailah Choudhry, Senior Semiotician