The frozen foods category has seen a healthy spike during the coronavirus pandemic and, helped by the “unprecedented crisis-style stockpiling,” has emerged as one of the beneficiaries from the chaos.

The situation has not only led to people buying more frozen product than before but has also introduced a new demographic of consumers to the category, Carly Arnold, European Category director for Fish at Nomad Foods, told IntraFish.

“The frozen category has benefited from the coronavirus situation and people are buying more frozen than they did before," she said. "Even those who didn’t buy frozen products before are now."

Two new groups in particular -- what Nomad calls “pre-family and post-family” -- have been buying in to frozen fish since the start of the pandemic.

But now that lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease around the world, the challenge for frozen food giants such as Nomad will be retaining these new shoppers.

“In terms of frozen fish, we are still seeing this growth, specifically with our fish fingers range, as despite restrictions easing there are still kids at home wanting lunch,” said Arnold.

But there has definitely been a behavioral change among consumers, said Arnold, and only time will tell if those habits stick.

“At the beginning of the year we were building our three-year plans and then this happened, and we were making penetration gains suddenly,” said Arnold. “We need to understand this fast and make changes to ensure it remains.”

Venturing out of the family heartland

Typically UK consumers eat frozen fish when they are young, with fish fingers the primary example. As they age, consumers tend to drop out of the category before re-entering again to buy frozen fish for their own kids.

“This family group is typically our 'heartland,'” said Arnold. “Now we are looking at this new group of pre- and post-family and trying to find ways to retain the new consumers.”

The pre-family group of consumers usually eats out of home frequently, and are aiming to replicate the experience in their own kitchens.

They also tend to have more disposable income, so one challenge will be getting them to step back into frozen as the lockdowns ease and restaurants reopen.

Nomad believes the answer lies in investing in the brand, in media communications, promotions, and building better awareness around frozen fish and seafood in general.

“We need to promote the frozen fish as the healthy sustainable food it is,” she said. “Factors such as provenance and sustainability are always important, but they are increasingly so these days, and will become even more important drivers."

Although difficult to predict what the new normal will look like in a post-coronavirus world, it is likely that factors such as working from home will remain standard for some time to come, while people will likely be wary about long-distance travel and eating out.

“By default, this more flexible, working from home landscape will lend itself to more in-home meal occasions, so I believe some of these behavioral changes will continue in the new normal and our aim is to serve our consumers in the best way,” said Arnold.

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