Freezers left out in the cold as younger shoppers shun food ‘graveyards’, reports IGD

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Freezers across the UK are ‘neglected’, ‘under-used’ and ‘under-appreciated’, with younger shoppers dubbing them ‘graveyards’ for food that is soon to go off, according to the latest consumer research from IGD ShopperVista.

Eighteen to 34-year-olds are twice as likely to agree that they don’t like eating food that is stored in the freezer than over-35s (18% versus 8%), with many instead using it as a space to save meat that is soon to go past its use-by date and to store unwanted food gifts from relatives. Some also consider the freezer to be an ‘insurance policy’ – a place to make last resort meals from.

A lack of space and skills in food storage are key issues that younger shoppers face when managing household food waste, with 18-34s rating themselves less proficient at organising and storing food than those aged over 35:

  • One in seven (14% of) 18-34-year-olds complain about a lack of fridge storage space against just 9% of over-35s, while a quarter (26%) of 18-34s feel they have insufficient room in the freezer compared to 14% of over-35s
  • 18-34s are much more likely to store new food and drink at the front of fridge than over-35s (41% against 23%)
  • Fewer 18-34s rate themselves as good at organising their fridge or cupboards than over-35s (55% against 63%)

Half of 18-34s (51%) tend to store frozen-bought food rather than home-made leftovers in the freezer, similar to over-35s (54%).

Some of the 18-34s surveyed did show an interest in using their freezer more effectively, either by buying a larger one, changing their usage or cooking meals specifically to store in it.

The study was undertaken as part of research and training charity IGD’s new ‘Working on Waste’ campaign. Working in collaboration with WRAP, the campaign aims to help the food and grocery industry – which employs 3.6m people – educate employees on how to minimise food waste at home. Employees are being offered advice on portion planning, making the most of leftover food, utilising their freezer, education on best-before and use-by dates and the myth that food can go off before its use-by date – information that Working on Waste hopes will drive awareness and engagement to take learnings beyond the workplace, into households.

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive, IGD said: “A lot of progress has been made already by companies across the industry to help consumers reduce household food waste. However, seven million tonnes of food and drink is still being thrown away by UK homes every year, costing consumers £12.5bn – so there’s more work to be done.

“As an industry, we employ 3.6m people and it is these employees that will form the bedrock of our campaign, taking learnings from their company into their households. In its first year, Working on Waste will reach around 650,000 employees in one month through meal planning advice, top tips, what to do with leftovers and much more. And if we can inspire each of these employees to inform their friends and family on how to reduce food waste, the campaign’s impact will be felt far beyond this number.”

Brian Young, chief executive of British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), said: “The recent IGD ShopperVista research, which looks at shoppers’ attitudes to their freezers and to waste in the home, clearly shows that consumers aren’t yet using their freezers to their full potential and that improving this could significantly reduce food waste.

“The report found that young people still aren’t getting the best from their freezers, often using them for unwanted food gifts or when food is about to ‘go off’, this presents a significant opportunity for the frozen food industry.

“Our own research tells us that nearly 80% of shoppers buy fresh and chilled food and freeze it – only to throw it away when it ultimately doesn’t meet their expectations. Buying these foods from the frozen food aisle in the first instance means shoppers can take advantage of the commercial freezing techniques that lock in quality and nutrition.

“By heading straight for the frozen aisle, instead of buying fresh or chilled and freezing at home, shoppers can guarantee the quality of the food in their freezer. In addition, commercially frozen food is often individually quick frozen, allowing for better portion control and reduced food waste as any unused food can be stored for a later date.

“We welcome the opportunity to encourage more people of all ages to make better use of their freezers and reduce food waste in the home. We believe that an on-going shift in perceptions towards frozen food and a rise in premium NPD in the frozen sector can help to achieve this.”