Frozen food alarm: what is likely to happen in the coming months

Pizzas, vegetables, meat, fish: all crazy for “ready” foods, according to the recent annual report on the consumption of frozen products by Iias (Italian Institute of Frozen Foods). The sector recorded unprecedented numbers, with an increase of over + 5% on 2020, for a total consumption that exceeds 940 thousand tons. In Italy, the new record of per capita consumption of these products was beaten, which rose to 16 kg (compared to 15.2 kg the previous year). “Last year was once again very important for the consumption of sub-zero products – explains Giorgio Donegani, president of Iias – We have had yet another confirmation of how frozen foods have become an integral part of the food choices of all Italians”. Thanks to the quality level of the raw materials, the high nutritional intake, the wide range of products, the practicality, the constant availability at any time of the year, the anti-waste value. In short, everyone likes them and for excellent reasons.

So far the happy notes. It is not certain that the future will be equally rosy, however. The reason? Final prices. Rises in energy prices and raw materials risk weighing on consumers more than expected, not to mention the growing problems in logistics and transport. If there is a super energy-intensive sector in the food industry, it is that of frozen foods: in fact, in factories, electricity and gas are not only used for processing and packaging, but also for storing finished products below zero. Some entrepreneurs in the sector have seen increases of 1,000 percent between their December 2020 and August 2022 bills. The first move of the manufacturers was the decision to drastically reduce the stocks in the warehouse. “Until now we had stock of products up to 12 months, now we reduce production to the quantities necessary to keep the scheduled requests. Of course, this means losing some business, not being able to seize market opportunities, but to save we have no other choice” , says al Sole 24 Ore Lorenzo Cerretani, the CEO of Salpa di Roseto degli Abruzzi.

The worst is yet to come. Someone thinks of the production stop for one day a week, with relative layoffs for workers. To save money, there are those who replace all possible lighting systems with LED lamps, those who automate the stops of the compressor motors when they are not needed, those who aim for alternative energy sources, with robotic warehouses for storing products. The goal of a large and well-established reality like Orogel is to reach the end of 2023 to cover about 40% of the energy it consumes with alternative sources.

But the companies in the sector are asking the government above all for measures and ad hoc aid for the sector. The price hike of around 15 per cent next year (some firms have already made 5-7 per cent increases this year) is unfortunately a realistic scenario. In Italy the ‘freezing revolution’ arrived in the period of the economic boom, from America, with a decade of delay, and the first line of frozen foods arrived in our grocery stores in 1964. Sixty years later, the new generations prefer quick meals to prepare, because despite the success of cooking shows, less and less time is spent in the kitchen. The fact that the offer of frozen foods is increasingly varied and healthy has attracted increasing attention in recent years by Italians, who previously looked at them with a little more diffidence than in other countries, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. It remains to be seen whether any increase in the final price, in the energy-intensive sector par excellence, will reverse a trend that seemed unstoppable.

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Frozen food alarm: what is likely to happen in the coming months

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