Report • 18.07.2009

Ice-cold presentation: The sales volume is in the detail

Frozen food departments have big and growing sales potential and yet there is more money to be made in these areas by owners providing good service and coming up with creative ideas.

Who risks something new - earns like this Edeka in Hamburg 
Who risks something new - earns like this Edeka in Hamburg Picture:Rundschau for food trade/Müller -Rohde

Frozen food departments have big and growing sales potential and yet there is more money to be made in these areas by owners providing good service and coming up with creative ideas.

It was a long day at work and the stomach is growling. At the supermarket you ask yourself one question: How much more work am I willing to do today? For many, especially younger people, the answer is: “Not much!“ Pizza, spinach or a fish casserole is by far fresh enough: According to the German Institute for Frozen Foods (DTI), last year the per-capita consumption increased again – not surprisingly, since the DTI curve has steeply risen since the seventies. Germans now consume 3.2 million tons of frozen food each year, an increase of 66.440 tons or 86 pounds per person since the previous year.

The big potential of frozen foods has not been lost on retailers. In a survey titled “Trend 09“ in the trade magazine “Lebensmittel Praxis“ (“Food Practice”), German food retail executives were asked in which product sectors they see the most sales potential. Out of 38 supermarket product categories, frozen foods ranked in second place. Only organic products were expected to achieve even better results. “Frozen food departments can create a lot of revenue,“ according to Susanne König, publicist for the DTI. “You need to call the customer‘s attention to these products though.“

König serves in the Cool Cup judging panel, an award given annually to outstanding frozen food departments. The list of extensive criteria, which winners need to meet, is practically a manual on how to increase sales volume in frozen food departments. While the customer doesn’t see an immediate difference between frozen food departments, he/she is definitely influenced by even subtle differences. The free style event of the Cool Cup – the non-legally required criteria – pays attention to appearance, assortment and customer information such as correct price tags directly above the product. For König those three categories are equally important: “A frozen food department is always a complete work of art. It does not help you if you have great products, if nobody maintains them.“

You do not have to move mountains to be in charge of a frozen food department. ”What you can achieve with simple means, also means a lot“, says Wiebke Töpfert, buyer for Edeka Niemerszein in Hamburg, a Cool Cup-winner last year. Part of it is keeping things tidy. A study by the Marketing research Institute Rheingold showed, cleanliness and hygiene in frozen food departments and the rest of the supermarket is a decision criterion for customers to either choose for or against a supermarket. Rummage areas in freezers and half-opened or smashed packaging turn customers off.

Many supermarkets already reacted and hired staff to tend specifically to the frozen food department. They can sort, clean up, keep track of sale down and generate a special sale if needed, restock empty product shelves and at the same time be available for customer questions – and thus manage to score in several categories. “Without the associate on the floor, who takes daily care of the frozen food department, you will not get very far“, knows Töpfert.

An appealing presence also requires a logical product presentation. A produce-department only offers fruits and vegetables for example, but a frozen department has everything: From fruits and vegetables to fish, meat, baked-goods and confectionery, desserts and snacks. “The product assortment is huge“, says judging panelist König. It is all the more important that a customer can quickly orient themselves. What the ideal sorting exactly looks like, differs with each supermarket. Whether you sort Piccolinis (small pizzas) with pizza or rather with snack items, depends on the customer buying habits at the particular market.

Ideas make the difference

A well cared for and assorted frozen food department still can lose its appeal quickly and not realize its whole potential, if there is no variation. “Frozen food departments do not have the same type of experience quality you will get in a wine department, even if they are optically arranged like one,“ König explains. ”That is why good and creative ideas in this area are all the more important. This is why as a member of the Cool Cup judging panel she also evaluates whether somebody stands out from the crowd.

Wiebke Töpfert works for Edeka, which last year was such a type of supermarket. “In the old days there was one pizza brand, today we have over 100 different types of pizza and baguettes,“ the buyer says. Her store used this fast growing and changing product palette to set themselves apart from others. This is why Töpfert has over 30 external suppliers aside from Edeka’s in-house suppliers. Compared to other supermarkets that’s quite a lot and this offers a wide product variety to choose from. The Edeka store Niemerszein in Hamburg also carries many international and new products. “Many of our products are not available at run- of- the- mill stores. And that makes a big difference.“

The Globus-Market in Neustadt an der Weinstraße received an award thanks to its creative and attentive department employees. They made assortments of items their customers often buy in combination and were able to increase their sales. “In the evening we regularly have young people at the store who buy pizza“, noticed Achim Hess, Team leader of the frozen food department. To cater to this clientele, he placed six-packs right next to the pizza chests: ”This was very well received and we were able to increase our sales.“ The customers did not have to walk through the entire store to search for their products and were quicker to pick something up. Cool-Cup jury member König can only confirm: “Ideas like that are simply brilliant!“


Anke Barth

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