Refelcting on the past 70 years, SN asked retailers, manufacturers and other industry sources to share their thoughts with us on what inventions and innovations have helped shaped the frozen-food industry since its inception. Looking forward, we also asked our panel what lies in store for this industry in the future in terms of product development, improved product quality, consumer demands and impending technological breakthoughs.
ng a time when most meats were purchased from local manufacturers and regional distribution was virtually unheard of."
Frozen Food Age magazine
"Frozen foods weren't as big an item until the introduction of orange juice concentrate in the 40s. When producers introduced concentrated, frozen orange juice to the market, the category suddenly took off. Frozen orange juice was the perfect item for consumers, meeting all the prerequisites they were looking for -- price, quality and convenience. The government even helped subsidize Florida orange growers and notables like Bing Crosby and Sid Caesar promoted the new product, drawing even more attention to frozen foods."
PacificWorld Enterprise Inc. "One of the most significant innovations has been the development of freezer-to-fryer products like breaded chicken and battered fish products. They completely eliminated any defrosting periods, keeping the food safe from contaminants and at the same time increasing the convenience for the consumer."
"The invention of the microwave was a tremendous innovation that brought on the development of microwavable frozen foods. Now, there are even combination frozen foods that can be cooked in the microwave and finished off in the oven to give the food a crispiness that a lot of consumers prefer."
Dr. James L. Cox
chief executive officer
"Because frozen foods are so vulnerable while they are in transit, the development of temperature recorders to monitor the product during distribution has made a big impact on the industry. The historical device we used was battery-powered and produced a paper strip chart that recorded the variation in temperature. Now, we have developed a digital temperature logger that is more accurate and more amenable for a frozen environment where the demands on the battery are far less to power a microchip than the mechanical device of the past. And, being digital, it now provides data that can be downloaded to a PC instead of producing paper strip charts."
SN: With such amazing discoveries already uncovered, what will the frozen-foods industry see next?
"There are a lot more convenience-food products in the freezer today than ever before and, in the future, there will be a proliferation of new frozen products that are virtually ready-to-eat. People are so rushed today and health is continuing to become a big issue for consumers. More frozen foods will be developed that are convenient, but also meet the nutritional needs of the consumer."
"Turkey burgers have been around since consumers were first interested in having healthy frozen foods and the category is still growing. Consumers will continue to demand healthy, low-fat frozen foods for a long time to come and manufacturers will keep producing new products that meet these demands. And, as more products are developed, competition in the freezer case will become more and more fierce, with only the best quality, top-selling brands being able to keep their valuable freezer space."
Weiner, Aldrich, Brown
"People are really looking for more natural, organic foods, a trend that will only continue to increase. And, as they buy more fresh produce, the frozen-foods industry will have to come to grips with this trend and find a way to promote the healthy qualities of some frozen products,"
senior category manager
Genuardi's Family Markets
"Manufacturers have found ways to trap more nutrients and vitamins in frozen foods than ever before and retailers will need to start promoting the health benefits of frozen foods in the future. If a retailer feels that frozen foods will be an integral part of their in-store mix in the future, they will need to do more advertising to help the category along."
senior logistics manager of product development
"We expect to see the development of more technologically advanced containers focused on maintaining even more precise temperatures for transporting frozen foods around the world."
director of marketing for new products
"What's going to happen beyond things like Chicken Voila! and other center-plate dinners will be center-plate breakfasts and lunches. With respect to the consumer wanting more and more convenience, frozen food will also become more portable. Why can't consumers have a complete breakfast in the car with dashboard foods or a complete entree wherever they want to eat?"
president and chief operating officer
"Skillet meals are a rapidly growing category right now and they will continue to grow in the future. Frozen bowl products are suddenly a popular item and there will likely be more developments in that category. Frozen pizzas, although they've been around for a long time, are still seeing double-digit growth and will continue to rise in the future too."