LAS VEGAS -- The frozen-food industry won't survive if its marketing programs remain status quo, said Jonathan Kramer, president of J. Brown/LMC Group, a Stamford, Conn., consultancy.
"If the frozen-food industry doesn't change its marketing practices in the near future, there isn't going to be a frozen-food industry," Kramer said at a home-meal replacement seminar at the National Frozen Food Convention, held here recently. The meeting was cosponsored by the National Frozen Food Association, Harrisburg, Pa., and the American Frozen Food Institute, McLean, Va.
Supermarkets should stop trying to replicate Boston Chicken and begin competing in areas where they are already strong -- for example, in the grocery and frozen-food arena, Kramer said.
John Crawford, grocery merchandiser for Winn-Dixie Stores' Charlotte-Greenville division, agreed supermarkets are not telling consumers how frozen food can fit into today's active lifestyles.
"[Retailers] are still in meal replacement, but what we need is meal solutions," he told SN after the seminar.
Chuck Dunford, frozen-food category manager of the Minneapolis division of Supervalu, said the entire industry has to work together to create meal concepts and bring people back into the supermarket.
"We are pursuing the home-meal replacement idea by using advertising and point-of-purchase material and by educating retailers," he said. Meal-solution ingredients are sometimes grouped together at Supervalu stores, Dunford noted.
Instead of focusing on consumer behavior, which is to buy prepared meals, supermarkets should look at what's driving the behavior: the need for high-quality, good-tasting meals on demand, said Kramer.
The best way to deliver solutions, said Kramer, is for retailers and manufacturers to work together. "Co-marketing drives 40% more volume than the traditional display and feature," claimed Kramer.
Pat Brooks, director of frozen food at Save Mart Supermarkets, Modesto, Calif., noted that supermarkets need to make a commitment over a reasonable period when trying new concepts, including HMR concepts, because results are not always immediate.
Kramer said frozen food -- which provides variety, quality and convenience -- is the ideal meal solution, but the industry has not communicated the message to the public.
He recommended the industry create its own marketing organization, similar to the beef and dairy councils.