Birds Eye is the leading frozen-vegetable brand in the UK, with its main competitor in the category being supermarkets' own-label products. So it is perhaps unsurprising that the brand sees a huge opportunity to tap into the consumer trend for flexitarianism and vegan foods.
The brand has doubled its spend on frozen vegetables this year and kicked off a £6m marketing campaign, called "Eat in full colour", including a TV spot created by Grey London. It is, according to marketing director Steve Challouma, its biggest-ever frozen-veg campaign to date and follows a £2m investment into the launch of meat-free burgers, which form part of Birds Eye's new Green Cuisine range.
Challouma explained that Birds Eye has a unique opportunity to grow its place in the vegetable market. Consumers may be embracing the idea of eating more vegetables – he said 29% of meals in the UK are now meat- and fish-free, with 92% of growth coming from non-vegans – but people in the UK still don't consume nearly enough.
The average Brit is still lagging behind the World Health Organization’s five-a-day recommendation, eating 1.6 portions a day. Challouma said this is not helped by the fact that a tiny fraction of UK adspend – just 1.2% – is spent on veg products.
"This campaign is part of a broader transformation and shift in our portfolio that we've been making over the past few years, firstly towards healthier products," he explained. "Much more of our portfolio is now vegetables, fish and chicken, with 80% of our portfolio healthier [foods]. If you went back 20 years, it would have been 60% [with more ready meals, red meat and pastry-based products in the range].
"But, on top of that, we're establishing a new leg of the business in plant protein, which we launched with Green Cuisine. It's not a niche trend. We see our role in opening it up to the mainstream British consumer."
Historically, frozen food has had a bit of a reputation problem, with the perception that fresh is better. But Challouma noted that this is changing – something that is reflected in the frozen-food category outpacing fresh food in terms of growth, according to Challouma.
The latest ad also makes efforts to address this, with the animated vegetables singing about the virtues of frozen. In addition, Challouma said, consumers recognise that they can save on food waste through buying frozen by not having to chuck out vegetables languishing in the bottom of the fridge.
Next year, Challouma added, marketing spend for veg is likely to increase further to hit £10m as Birds Eye looks to bolster efforts to get families to buy more frozen.
He continued: "Eighty-five per cent of households buy our brands, so we have a huge opportunity to make it more populist and mainstream, and less functional and preachy. What Birds Eye does best is make it more fun, lighthearted and accessible in terms of how we communicate these new products."
Currently, peas make up 24,000 tonnes of the overall 36,000 tonnes of veg the brand sells each year, suggesting there is opportunity for growth in other areas.
"I would love to double our vegetables business. Habits are hard to change, but they do change – and we see that as a 10- or 20-year commitment and vision," Challouma said.
"These segments from a business point of view can be more profitable than other segments. If you look at fish and chicken, which are expensive materials, with global demand increasing and prices going up, commercially it can be very attractive to sell healthier products. You can make more money, invest more in brand and it becomes a virtuous circle."