May/June 2019

Five tips to attract young consumers to frozen fruits and vegetables

Current trends, especially those that involve the younger generation, could create advantages for the frozen fruit and vegetable sector.

Elena Ozeritskaya, founder of Fresh Insight, said the younger generation (15- to-30-year olds) are the most educated, affluent, assertive and IT-oriented generation in history. Their values, beliefs, attitudes and lifestyle dictate their behavioral patterns, particularly when it comes to what they choose to put on their plates. Understanding this generation will help processors better prepare for their preferences.

As someone who specializes in customer insight, Ozeritskaya helps companies develop meaningful value propositions, especially for the younger generation. Thus far, the frozen sector hasn’t really found a way to excite these young consumers, she said. But Ozeritskaya share some ideas on how to change that in a presentation at Fruit Logistica earlier this year.

Involve young consumers in product development

The first way to attract the younger generation to new products is to involve them in their development, Ozeritskaya said. This service is offered through Fresh Insight. In order to co-create with consumers, she organizes workshops with companies and their potential consumers to come up with new concepts that are exciting for both parties.

“It’s not about doing a focus group or a quick test when everything is ready,” she said. “Involve them at the very front end of innovation.”

Let go of your product

It may sound strange, but Ozeritskaya advises her clients to let go of their product.

Elena Ozeritskaya
Elena Ozeritskaya of Fresh Insight speaks during Fruit Logistica 2019.

“It’s not actually about your product,” she said. “It’s about what consumers are looking for. Consumers are looking to feel energetic, to get power, to be relaxed — they’re looking for certain benefits.”

To really hit the mark, companies need to focus more on the benefits or goals to determine how the product in question can be a part of the solution. Some of the trends she highlighted are health and well-being, indulgence, ethically produced products and convenience.

Fresh salads provide a great example of this, where certain ingredients are selected to be part of a larger solution that addresses some of these trends. “I think that in the processed and frozen arena, much more can be done,” Ozeritskaya said.

Sometimes, she said, a slight repositioning is all that is needed. For example, instead of positioning chopped, frozen mango as it is, she suggests rebranding it as a healthy, smoothie option. Taking it a step further, why not create a pre-mixed energy smoothie blend that’s ready to use in the morning?

Reduce inconvenience

In order to reduce inconvenience for consumers, you must first understand what they find inconvenient. In her presentation, Ozeritskaya used herself as an example. The mother of two small children, she used to make frozen baby food for her children. While canned baby food was available in her local market, healthier options were not, so she made them herself.

To make her own frozen baby food, Ozeritskaya looked to Pinterest and Instagram for ideas. That’s when she discovered that she was not alone.

“I create therefore I would buy,” she said. “I think companies also should monitor what’s happening on social media more closely because there are a lot of opportunities ready to be translated into a business, into a product.

“The inconvenience for me was that I spent hours every week creating this stuff.”

Another inconvenience she suggests the sector could work on is taste and flavor. “I think companies should experiment much more in defrosting vegetables,” she said, adding that many consumers don’t know how to best thaw frozen products.

Location can also be an inconvenience. If you look at how supermarkets are organized, the frozen food aisles are still the least inspiring place in the store. “The young consumers, especially, don’t really go there,” she said. “Especially not when thinking about something more exclusive, fun or exciting. It’s almost a corridor you don’t want to end up in.”

Stand out with your packaging

Packaging is the first thing a consumer sees in the grocery store. To attract the attention of the younger consumer, packaging needs to be fun and cool, Ozeritskaya said. Since the younger generation is eco-driven in their purchases, eco-friendly packaging is also a draw.

Rethink marketing

While many companies think it’s enough to advertise their product for what it is, Ozeritskaya said it’s just not enough. She recommends that processors find creative ways to reach their consumers. In the case of frozen vegetables, this could be by creating videos that show how to preserve texture and taste, how to properly defrost product, and exciting new ways to use the vegetables.

“It’s not about having a website with all kinds of information,” she said. “It’s about helping people get their jobs done.”

Combination is king

If you talk to younger consumers they likely say they want their low-calorie, meals made with organic and local ingredients. They’re looking for exciting new flavors. This is something that’s really missing in the frozen arena, Ozeritskaya said.

“If you look at frozen, it’s normally ingredient-focused,” she said, adding that consumers are looking for something more.

A couple of years ago, Instant Pots and other types of slow cookers were flying off the shelves. These products have presented a huge opportunity for the frozen food sector, Ozeritskaya said.

“Why is nobody picking it up in the frozen food industry?” she asked. “I haven’t seen any meals made for crockpots.”

Aside from the healthy crockpot freezer meal example, Ozeritskaya pointed to other ideas she’s seen on social media, including on-the-go breakfast bars and frozen yogurt raspberries.

“This is also part of reducing inconvenience,” she said. “You need to get close to consumers and listen and look.”

— Melanie Epp, contributing writer

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