Frozen food industry calls for greater collaboration to win back consumer trust at annual conference

The food industry must collaborate more and share information in order to win back consumer trust, according to speakers at British Frozen Food Federation’s annual business conference on 20 February 2014.

As the government continues to talk of ‘green shoots’, this year’s conference asked the question are consumers coming out of the cold? covering topics including the economy and the after effects of the horse meat fraud in 2013.

Speakers, including Asda head of food, Darina Hall, Dr Oetker (UK) managing director Peter Franks and Martin Forsyth, director of technical food services at Bidvest 3663, suggested that following criminal activity in early 2013, sales of processed red meat have returned to pre-horse meat levels. However, they argued that consumer trust remains fragile and agreed that the industry must work together to ensure full transparency across the entire supply chain.

Brian Young, BFFF director general, said: “There seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of consumer confidence. After several years of economic difficulty and food fraud last year, consumers are starting to feel more confident in the food industry, the foodservice industry is seeing slow growth and retail spending is expected to increase.”

Economist Roger Martin-Fagg and Horizons Foodservice chief executive Peter Backman and Chris Longbottom at Kantar Worldpannel told delegates that the outlook for the economy had started to slowly improve and there were positive signs on the horizon for the food industry.

Young continued: “This poses both a challenge and an opportunity for the frozen industry – the onus is now on us to discourage consumers from reverting to old habits. We must embrace NPD and demonstrate traceability across the industry to ensure the growth frozen has seen during difficult times does not fall by the wayside as the economy improves.”

Debating the merits of 100% British supply chains, speakers Oliver Cock, managing director, commercial at Compass Group UK & Ireland and Peter Allan, general manager and director at Cargill Meats Europe both suggested British provenance was not the main driver for consumers and that the choice of quality and ethical supply chains were of much higher concern.

The conference and exhibition, which is in its fourth year, was attended by over 230 industry influencers looking to debate the latest issues in frozen food.