Innovation is key to future of frozen food industry, Federation tells annual business conference

Young: innovation is key

Young: innovation is key

Innovation, technology and teamwork will unlock a bright future for the frozen food industry.

That was the message from the British Frozen Food Federation at its annual business conference and exhibition.

Brian Young, BFFF chief executive, told members: “The food industry has gone through seismic change in recent years.

“Provenance, authenticity and assured supply chains have been game changing. The retail environment has gone through unforeseen radical change and there is more to come.

“The technology shift in the last five years is greater than the last 50 years.

“We are proud to have supported our members with guidance and support on listeria and we are helping to save lives with new industry guidance for people working at height.

“We have successfully lobbied the EU about first date of freezing legislation changes and we have also carried out fire risk assessments at over 2,500 sites.

“BFFF is  unrecognisable from where it was 10 years ago and we are confident that by working together with our members we can make the frozen food industry bigger, better and stronger than ever.”

The event was attended by over 220 delegates with speeches from industry influencers including Europe’s leading futurist Patrick Dixon who looked ahead to the world in 2050.

As well as investigating how technology will help shape our future – he highlighted how the frozen food industry can boost sales by focusing on shopper’s emotions.

In his speech he said: “Emotion is at the heart of everything and it will shape our future forever. Food is an emotional business. Traditional brands endure across generations – that’s not just about food, it’s about emotion.”

Innovation across the industry was a key theme of the conference.

Ali Hannaford, chairman and director of Paramount 21, told members how pioneering machinery and a new four-day working week had helped to anchor the success of her family-owned seafood company.

Empowering the workforce was also a focus of Bidvest Foodservice chief executive officer Andrew Selley’s speech. He highlighted how the international logistics and wholesaler puts innovation at the core of its strategy and added: “One size doesn’t fit all. Every depot manager isn’t just someone at the end of the supply chain – they are mini MDs and this is their business.”

And an uplifting case study from Ian Stone, sales, marketing and development director of apetito showed how the business – which makes meals for care homes, hospitals, the elderly and education – is helping to transform the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Leading names from retail and government also looked ahead at how innovation and technology is shaping the future of the frozen food industry.

Sarah Bradbury, category director of frozen at Tesco, said growth had been boosted by innovations including the Nutribullet which had helped to grow the supermarket’s frozen fruit sales from £6m to £25m over the last three years.

Tesco’s frozen sales have also been driven ahead with the launch of new ‘on trend’ products in response to customer demand. They include diced butternut squash and avocado – sales of which “had flown” thanks to mentions on social media.

Other highlights included Tim Render, deputy director of Defra’s Great British Food Unit, who called on the industry to maximise its potential to export.

James Walton, chief economist at the IGD, outlined how technology is putting society on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution. He also probed how driverless logistics, robotics and science could soon transform the food industry.

The event ended with an inspirational speech from Debra Searle – who defeated the odds to row solo across the Atlantic. She recollected the epic journey which made headlines across the globe and demonstrated how “choosing your attitude” can change your future.

The conference, now in its sixth year, was held at the Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth, Warwickshire. It was the last conference under the leadership of BFFF chief executive Young who will retire in spring 2017.

Young said: “We are proud to have organised another valuable event for our members.

“The conference has once again shown how the frozen food industry is full of incredible energy and innovation – and by harnessing our joint knowledge and passion, it can only go from strength to strength.”