MARKETING OF FROZEN READY-TO-COOK FOOD
FEATURES OF THE INDUSTRY
The dishes like dumplings, pizza, cabbage rolls, and other difficult to prepare food hold a significant place in the culinary culture of many countries. These are the kinds of dishes that almost everyone enjoys and that evoke memories of delicious meals prepared by mothers or grandmothers. However, they require a considerable amount of time and effort to make at home. After a long day of work, there is not much time or inclination to cook, and that is where the frozen ready-to cook products come in.
From a marketing perspective, this industry is quite interesting and has several unique characteristics that distinguish it from other food products. Here are the key features influencing the marketing of frozen ready-to-cook products:
- Consumer perception. The uniqueness of frozen ready-to-cook products, from a marketing standpoint, lies in consumers' attitudes and demands regarding taste and quality. Almost everyone knows the taste and quality of homemade dumplings compared to the so-called "store-bought" ones produced by large enterprises. While these large manufacturers may try to meet consumer preferences, achieving the truly homemade taste remains a challenge for various reasons. This situation creates a significant opportunity for small businesses with handmade production and high-quality ingredients to capture their share of the market and achieve commercial success.
- Market structure. Considering the points mentioned above, a specific market structure has formed with a distribution of sales channels among manufacturers based on their size. Large companies typically focus on selling through chain supermarkets and other grocery outlets, while small businesses actively develop their own brand stores, franchise outlets, direct sales through online channels (websites, social media pages), and collaboration with the HORECA channel. The consumer perception split between "store-bought" and "homemade" products enable small businesses to thrive.
- Growth drivers. The small businesses that respond to consumer demand by producing products that taste and feel like homemade dishes are driving overall category sales growth. They have demonstrated that frozen ready-to-cook products can emulate the taste of genuine homemade cuisine, restoring trust in the product category. Large manufacturers are also compelled to improve the quality and taste of their products in response to market demand. Furthermore, the market has witnessed significant expansion within the category, offering a wide variety of fillings, combinations, recipes, and even different colors.
- Franchise expansion. Some small businesses in the industry have achieved success to the point of offering franchise opportunities. For many aspiring entrepreneurs, buying a franchise is an optimal way to start a business, as most of the mistakes are already made by the franchise owner regarding production technology, raw material procurement, commercialization, and marketing strategy. Operating under the umbrella of an established brand, with defined technological processes, and benefiting from the popularity of the brand, presents entrepreneurs with a higher likelihood of success and a faster return on investment.
- Importance of marketing. Feeling the pressure from small businesses, the popularity of franchises, and consumer demand, large enterprises invest considerable marketing budgets in promoting their products. The focus is on eliminating the "store-bought" image of frozen ready-to-cook products by emphasizing improved recipes, better ingredients, and a homemade taste. While not always successful and convincing, the marketing process is gradual and inevitable. Small businesses also invest in marketing that is more refined and local, primarily aimed at increasing local consumer awareness and competing with each other.
Of course, the list of frozen ready-to-cook market features can be extended by delving into segments, commercial aspects, and other characteristics. However, from a marketing perspective, the features mentioned above are fundamental to building a successful marketing strategy. As we can see, the frozen ready-to-cook market is somewhat unique in terms of consumer requirements and is attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises that can effectively compete with large manufacturers on both local and national scale through franchise scaling. How to compete in such conditions and build an effective marketing mix? SOME GENERAL STRATEGIES AND APPROACHES
In general, companies in the frozen ready-to-cook industry employ various marketing strategies, approaches, and tools depending on their chosen strategy, marketing budget, and the qualifications of their marketers. Overall, the following elements of the marketing mix deserve the most attention:
- Homemade quality product strategy. Given the industry's characteristics discussed earlier, the product strategy sits at the core of the entire marketing mix for frozen ready-to-cook products. If a company cannot deliver "home-like" quality and taste, repeat purchases may be unlikely. "Store-bought" quality and taste immediately bring a negative image to the product, regardless of the marketing tools trying to convince consumers otherwise.
- Product portfolio diversification. Despite consumers' love for specific food, eating it constantly is not feasible. The consumption of frozen ready-to-cook products is limited by consumers' perceptions of healthy eating and other factors. The task for companies is to create a diversified product portfolio—varied fillings, shapes, colors. Marketers must convey to consumers the rich variety of products, expand consumption scenarios, and assure them of the brand's alignment with the concepts of healthy eating and product usefulness.
- Packaging design. Packaging design is an extremely powerful marketing tool for most food products. In the frozen ready-to-cook industry, large enterprises extensively use packaging design to eliminate the "store-bought" image and compensate for perceived "non-home-like" quality and taste. Designs aim to visually meet consumer expectations—depicting homemade and appetizing products, quality meat, vegetables, and fruits as raw materials, thoughtful slogans, and calls to purchase.
- Brand characters. Creating artificial characters as the face of a brand is highly effective in the marketing of this industry. Character-building carries several advantages over competitors, including brand differentiation, enhanced brand recognition through creativity, the ability to gradually convey the brand's story and advantages to consumers, and the flexibility to quickly change messages and campaign directions through the characters in response to changing external conditions.
- Sales and promotion channels. Large manufacturers have a strong presence in almost all supermarket freezers. Some smaller producers attempt to enter chaink supermarkets with a positioning of "home-like" quality, but this might backfire. Even a tasty and homemade brand can inherit negative consumer perceptions of "store-bought" brands when placed alongside them in supermarket freezers. Alternative sales and promotion channels—own stores, franchises, online sales, and direct delivery services —are more optimal for small "home-like" brands.
- Traditional advertising. While nationwide advertising and television can be effective with a creative approach, it is not the mainstream for the industry as a whole due to various reasons. Large companies may not find it necessary to compete for TV advertising time with other industries, and for small businesses operating more locally, such advertising may not make sense. However, more accessible methods of traditional advertising—radio, local printed media, outdoor advertising near points of sale—are still effective for the frozen ready-to-cook market.
- Online promotion. Both large manufacturers and small businesses actively use online platforms for product promotion. While larger companies focus on increasing brand awareness and trying to shed the "store-bought" image, small businesses build and utilize the digital ecosystem more for direct customer flow generation. Small businesses leverage websites, social media pages, mobile apps, delivery services, aggregators, SEO, and content marketing.
Also, it is necessary to note that within the scope of one article, we cannot show all the pitfalls or demonstrate all the marketing methodologies and tools specific to the frozen ready-to-cook food. These are just a few examples of quite general marketing approaches that can be applied to such products. From a practical point of view, everything is much more complex - the choice of a specific marketing strategy and tools depends on the target audience, competitive environment, and unique advantages of the brand, etc. At the same time, it is desirable to understand that marketing of frozen ready-to-cook food may face a number of specific problems that are unique to each individual case and require an individual approach to their solution.
Achieving the commercial objectives of a company through effective marketing requires a deep understanding of the market situation, consumer needs, the ability to analyze and explore alternatives, and a creative approach to problem-solving. Our company has extensive experience in defining optimal marketing strategies for our clients' businesses, creating a strong brand and market positioning, as well as developing a marketing mix and implementing the chosen strategy. You can familiarize yourself with the services and solutions our company offers on the "Services
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