Frozen Food has become a large part of our day-to-day lives and now forms a significant part of the floor space in supermarkets. This increase is due to a number of factors and driven by the changes in technology and our lifestyle over the past 20 years.
Food that has been frozen for distribution has a number of benefits. Food can be stored for longer periods of time, freshness and taste can be maintained, portion control is often easier and foods can often be distributed to new markets that may not otherwise benefit.
Increasingly, consumers are recognising the benefits of freezing, in particular with vegetables. Independent research shows that there is very little difference in vitamin and mineral content between fresh and frozen vegetables.
Vegetables are usually snap frozen immediately after harvest and therefore maintain elements that may be lost in the time it takes fresh vegetables to get to the consumers stomach. In some cases, frozen vegetables actually contain more nutrients - in one test Vitamin C was shown to be double with frozen vegetables. (Source: www.health.ninemsn.com.au/whatsgoodforyou)
Packaging is a particularly important element of the frozen products supply chain. The substrate, or material, that the packaging is made from needs to withstand the temperatures of a freezer while maintaining the integrity of the contents. The design of the packaging needs to take advantage of the way in which the SKU is placed in the freezer and ensure that communication to the purchaser is clear and enticing.
Generally, frozen food is displayed in either a 'coffin' style freezer, or a 'stand -up' of 'fridge' style freezer.
Coffin freezers are not particularly energy efficient, allowing a great deal of energy (in the form of cooled air) to escape. While fridge style freezers are becoming more popular, there is still a mix in most retail environments and packaging design needs to take this into account.
A Stand Up or Fridge Freezer is more energy efficient. The doors keep cold air inside, but often mist up when opened and closed frequently. Some packs are packed flat to maximise space, so the design needs to take this into account.
Traditionally, a supermarket has contained vegetables, basic meals and dairy foods, such as ice-cream. With changes in lifestyle, a much larger product range is available in most supermarkets.
This includes health food, such as fish and health meals along with more gourmet style foods, such as meals and desserts.
Because of advances in technology and wider consumer awareness, frozen baby food is now more common and seen as an acceptable alternative to cooking from scratch for infants.
Pets have not been forgotten either...
Frozen fish food and other forms of pet food are now commonly available. Once again, packaging design for these categories needs to take into account communication to the target market along with the specific technical requirements of the substrate that contains the food.
To ensure proper refrigeration, frozen products are often displayed so that the brand and other pack communication is partly obscured. The pack design needs to take this into account and any frozen pack should always be mocked up and placed in-situ prior to production taking place.
In particular, shelf lips, shelf dividers and other display sometimes cover up parts of the pack. This cannot always be overcome, but a considered approach to the packaging design can help avoid this.
Often the brand and variant of a product needs to be repeated to ensure visibility on the shelf. 'Shelf standout' is harder in a freezer, but is still a critical part of making sales in this highly competitive environment.
Most frozen foods are packaged in plastic of some type, which is printed using a flexographic printing process. 'Flexo' printing, as it is commonly known, has some restrictions which must be taken into account during the design and packaging production process.
Because opening a pack will often compromise the continued storage and usability of the food inside, tamper evident packaging is also used with a number of frozen foods. While this will not stop tampering, it will ensure that a potential consumer can see when a pack has been opened in advance.
Frozen food manufacturers must consider these and many other factors during the supply process, from harvest of raw materials throughout to delivery to plate of the consumer. This includes food safety, storage and shipping and maintaining a range of other standards.