Booming Italian frozen food sales
- Sales of frozen food rose by 13.5% with seafood, snacks and pizza the most popular products.
- Losses from foodservice are estimated at EUR600 million (USD701 mln).
- In 2019, frozen food per capita consumption hit 14 kilograms.
In the first four months of 2020 sales of frozen food products in Italy rose by 13.5%, with frozen savoury snacks growing by 21.5% and frozen fish by 16.5%, the Italian Frozen Food Institute (IIAS) estimates.
Frozen vegetables remain the most purchased product in the category with a 45% market share, followed by frozen fish (17-18%). The categories that grew the most were: frozen seafood (+16.5%), savoury snacks (+21.5 %), pizzas (+12.5%) and potatoes (+12%).
"The year 2020 marked a good start for the frozen sector, in the wake of 2019's trend, but in mid-February we had to deal with the Covid-19," IIAS president Vittorio Gagliardi said in a video interview.
He explained that the lockdown, including the prohibition on farmer markets and measures aiming to reduce supermarket trips, has boosted demand for long-life food and in particular for frozen products which are perceived as being the closest alternative to fresh.
Door-to-door sales, which are widely popular in Italy, rose by 40% during the analysed period as supermarkets home deliveries is not an established practice in medium and small-size towns.
At the same time, sales of frozen products in the foodservice fell sharply with losses estimated at EUR600 million (USD701 mln) for full-year 2020.
Gagliardi recalled that recent studies published by government's agencies suggest that frozen products' nutrients are at the same level and in some cases higher than those of the fresh product. He pointed out that preservatives cannot be used in frozen products, with the exception of pre-fried ones. Those factors have certainly helped in boosting sales for the category, as consumers are increasingly looking for high-vitamin content products.
He said that current market trends suggest a substitution of animal protein with vegetable proteins for a wide range of products as more consumers adopt vegan or vegetarian diets and are keener to consume vegetable and fruit-based products because they are perceived as healthy.
In 2019, Italians purchased almost 850,000 tonnes of frozen food, with a 1.5% increase in sales for retail and 1.1% for foodservice. Per capita consumption hit a record high of 14 kilograms per person.
Excellent performances were recorded for vegetables with 228,000 tonnes consumed and with a growth of 0.5% compared with 2018. This category includes both plain vegetables (peas, spinach, green beans, potatoes), soups and side dishes.
The fish market increased by 1.2% to 94,150 tonnes. Consumers seemed to appreciate raw materials sourced in accordance with certified sustainable fishing practices.
Good results were recorded for pizzas and snacks, with a consumption of approximately 78,500 tonnes (+ 2.4% ). The most popular pizza flavour was Margherita (tomato sauce and mozzarella), followed by the vegetarian, Capricciosa, mushroom and ham. There was also a slight increase (+0.7%) in the consumption of frozen potatoes to 72,300 tonnes.
Ready-meals sales rose to 32,900 tonnes (+2.9%), while frozen meat consumption recovered for both poultry (8,850 tonnes;+3.3% compared with 2018 ) and red meat (4,500 tonnes, +2.4% y-o-y).
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