The middle of summer (even a rainy one in the UK) seems to be an opportune time to review the performance of the Frozen category across Convenience, so let’s take a look at what’s been going on in the last 12 months, and what’s likely to happen in the months ahead.

The figures from the past year paint something of a mixed picture. The important thing is that we review these results through the one-off (hopefully) filter of Covid and the long periods of lockdown that radically changed our normal habits.

Not as bad as it first looks

With that caveat in mind, total sales in the category were down -5% compared with the previous year. This might sound discouraging but when we remind you that, in the 12 months before that, sales went up by as much as +27%, then the category would seem to be in a reasonably healthy state.

That leads us to conclude that the recent year-on-year decline can be put down more to the restrictions placed on us all during lockdown rather than any worrying long-term trends.

When we consider the number of buying customers in the category, the situation looks very similar. The last 12 months shows a decline of -8%, but this is offset, to a large extent, by an increase of +5% over the previous year.

Taking a closer look

So those are the top-line figures for the whole category, but what about when we dig a little deeper to try and find out what’s been going on within it.

From a £ sales perspective, Ice Cream has remained the category leader but has seen a -3% decline in performance in the latest 52 weeks. However, as the category is so reliant on the weather, a good spell of hot temperatures and sunshine across the UK (like we have seen very recently) has the potential to turn this situation around.

The current problems with international travel and the increased focus on holidaying in the UK this summer are also good news for the Ice Cream market. We’d fully expect that stores in seaside resorts and popular tourist destinations will see a healthy rise in sales during the long school break. And, yes, Ice Lollies (#4 rank overall from a £ Sales perspective) will be impacted by exactly the same things.

Pizza not delivering

Pizza (#2 rank in £ Sales) and Chips & Wedges (#3 rank) saw declines of 12% and 9% respectively over the same period. This can be partly explained by a wider availability of products in Supermarkets, after lockdown, reducing the demand in Convenience stores. The opening up of hospitality and the chance to eat out at restaurants and pubs will also have had an impact.

The easing of Covid social restrictions has definitely been good news for Ice Cubes (#5 rank in £ Sales) too. Here, we’ve seen positive sales growth of +8% in the last 52 weeks after growth of the same amount the year before. With bigger social gatherings now permitted once again, it’s highly likely that this positive trend is being driven by an increase in parties and BBQs after many months of not being able to meet up with friends and family.

What new trends have emerged in the category?

This crop of results shows how difficult it is to spot underlying trends in Frozen due to the temporary disruption caused to the whole category by the pandemic. However, if we look closer there are one or two things that do catch the eye.

One definite trend is the increased sales activity around Frozen Fruit. Bags of berries, in particular, have seen a huge rise over the past year with £ sales increasing by +72%, while the number of buying customers went up by a barnstorming +160%. With the warm summer period now here, we can expect to see sales further accelerate as consumers use frozen berries in their smoothies, cocktails and desserts.

When the weather’s not so good, home baking, which became increasingly popular during lockdown, could help to keep the Frozen Fruit category buoyant when we reach autumn.

Have key Frozen occasions changed?

It doesn’t seem as though Frozen occasions for Convenience have changed much since before Covid-19 turned the world upside down. Occasions still seem to be focused on impulse and fun occasions. This certainly applies to the Top 5 selling categories: Ice Cream, Pizza, Chips & Wedges, Ice Lollies and Ice Cubes.

We are also seeing that the role Convenience is playing within the sector is slowly beginning to revert back to what it was pre-pandemic, as one might have expected.

With hospitality now fully up and running again, and with the wider availability of products in Supermarkets, there are more opportunities for consumers to access the Impulse and Fun occasions they desire. Why stay at home and have a pizza when you can go out to a pub again? Why stay at home and have a film night with Ice Cream and popcorn, when you can go back to the cinema?

As a final light-hearted thought, now football in the park is back on the agenda, perhaps we can expect to see more bags of frozen peas being used on all those knee and ankle strains!

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