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Slower growth for European FF market, but bakery and potato products soar.

Poultry and catering figures for UK, and resumption of reports from Belgium put consumption total well over seven million tons.

Frozen food consumption in Europe increased 5.8% last year, comparing like to like figures for twelve countries that reported in both 1990 and 1991. But consumption of bakery and potato products both showed double-digit increases.

Bakery products, on a like-to-like basis, posted a 35.1% increase to 866,900 tons last year, vs. 641,300 for 1990, with much of the increase in France. Potato products volume, up 15% from 1,067,800 to 1,227,500 tons on a like-to-like basis, recorded strong gains in all reporting countries.

Total frozen food consumption reported by the Swiss Frozen Food Institute for 1991 in 13 countries was 6,526,225 tons, compared to 6,040,200 for 12 countries in 1990. Leaving out Belgium, the like-to-like total for 1991 was 6,338,650 tons -- the basis for calculating the 5.8% overall increase. But other figures suggest that the actual European total was well over seven million tons.

A 538,000-ton "miscellaneous" figure for Britain, which appears in the 1992 almanac published by the French Federation des Industries et Commerces Utilisateurs des Basses Temperatures (FICUR), almost certainly represents catering -- for which no statistics have been available from British sources for years. A footnote to the table on European FF consumption in the French almanac, otherwise taken straight from the Swiss report, suggests the data comes from secret sources.

British poultry consumption, never included in the Swiss round-up (which relies on retail estimates from Birds Eye-Wall's), was at least 243,000 tons last year, according to industry sources for chicken and turkey. With ducks, geese and other fowl, it probably came closer to 300,000. Most of the poultry consumption seems to be at retail; together with other catering consumption, it probably raises overall British FF volume to over 1.8 million tons and the European grand total to over 7.3 million.

Germany, which has an expanded market since reunification, showed the strongest overall increase in frozen food consumption last year -- 10.5% to 1,785,582 tons. Second in rate of growth was tiny Austria, where consumption was up 9.7% to 105,850 tons (not including poultry). Italian FF consumption was up 8.5% to 412,630 tons, and French FF volume 6.5% to 1,429,863. But the market lagged in Scandinavia; an increase of 4.3% for Denmark was only on paper, reflecting improved reporting for fish and seafood, while there were actual declines in Sweden and Finland and only a small advance in Norway.

Statistics submitted by European countries are gradually becoming more consistent, and Quick Frozen Foods International is trying to make them still more so (for example, by shifting pizza from ready meals to bakery products in German figures for the Swiss-derived European table, and by adding catering and poultry figures for Britain). Two of the primary categories have been reported consistently for years: vegetables, up 4.1% last year to 1,553,061 tons for 12 countries (1,572,426 for 13); and fish and seafood, up a scant one percent to 983,468 tons for 12 countries (994,768 for 13).


Double-digit increases in basic categories like vegetables last year must reflect the continued impact of an expanded market in eastern Germany, particularly at retail -- overall, vegetables showed a 12.8% increase to 317,139 tons during 1991; but the increase at retail was 22.8% to 200,459 tons, whereas catering consumption was actually off 1.1% to 116,680 tons.

Spinach, that dinosaur of the German market, was up 28.8% at retail -- it may be old stuff in the west, but still relatively new to the east in frozen form. But perhaps there's some sophistication, too, among eastern consumers: prepared vegetables other than spinach-based recorded a 41.4% increase at retail to 40,224 tons, a fifth of the whole vegetable category, whereas spinach creams and the like were up only 8.1%.

Fish and seafood, a slow category for the rest of Europe, showed a 10% increase here, to 140,135 tons. But most of the rise was in the catering sector, up 20.6% to 51,732. Potato products, still growing rapidly in other countries, may have reached the point of saturation for Germany, with an overall increase of only 2.4% to 340,379 tons. French fries actually showed a 1.2% decline, to 254,697 -- but other potato products were up by 14.8% to 85,682. Interestingly, the other products showed the strongest growth on the catering side (20.6%), where fries were down four percent -- apparently Germans who get out are getting tired of fries and want more variety.

Ready meals, including pizza (listed with bakery products in the European roundup), were up 16.1% to 267,512 tons. Pizza remained the largest single item at 79,139 tons, and, at 16.7%, showed a stronger increase than complete dinners (up 13.1% to 77,040). Stews and soups, portions and baguettes all displayed even higher rates of growth, however. In the bakery products area, up 23.8% to 115,517 tons, cakes and rolls were the stars -- up 36.8% to 51,058 tons, and 41% at retail. Even frozen meat recorded an 18.3% increase, to 85,331 tons; only poultry, at seven percent to 468,000 tons, lagged somewhat. Per capita consumption, at 22.4 kilograms, remained among the highest in Europe.

Germany is a major frozen food exporter, particularly in beef -- 433,928 tons in 1991, more than half of that in unboned forequarters and hindquarters to the Soviet Union, a market that has presumably diminished sharply this year. Frozen pork export totaled 55,903 tons last year, mostly to the Soviet Union. German FF imports during 1991 included 49,671 tons of strawberries, mostly from Poland, 30,238 tons of raspberries, 20,256 tons of currants and 89,641 tons of miscellaneous fruits and berries -- Yugoslavia, now also a former country, and torn by civil war, was the largest supplier. With such uncertainty in what used to be the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, Germany may have to reorient its foreign trade for years to come.


Considering the fact that Britain has been in a recession for years, its FF market is thought to be doing well enough. Figures are hard to come by, since neither of the British trade associations compiles statistics for release. Birds Eye-Wall's offers only the roundest of estimates, which are massaged somewhat by marketing services like AGB.

Bakery products showed such an extraordinary increase (36%, to 203,900 tons) and ready meals such a sharp decrease (30%, to 106,500) that the suspicion is that pizza was switched from one heading to the other, although it was supposedly already included in bakery products last year. Fish and seafood showed a 2.3% decline to 133,200 tons, with the shortage of cod at prices consumers wanted to pay the most obvious factor. Imports of frozen cod fillets for 1991 were 67,645 tons, off 10% from 74,796 in 1990, even though imports of frozen whole cod were down only slightly from 21,008 to 20,295. Yet Britain remained a major exporter of mackerel, which seems to be a tough sell at home. Frozen meat consumption, meanwhile, showed a 35% increase to 100,500 tons -- higher prices for fish, fresh as well as frozen may have made burgers and the like more attractive.

Consumption of frozen whole chickens was 139,000 tons last year, according to the British Chicken Information Service, up from 119,000 in 1990. Frozen chicken portions consumption was up from 56,000 to 58,000 tons. The trade group also listed 33,452 tons of value-added chicken products, up from 32,214 in 1990 -- these may already be included in ready meals. The British Turkey Information Service, meanwhile, put frozen turkey consumption of 40,000 tons for whole birds (off from 44,000) and 6,000 for portions (no change), plus 20,000 tons of convenience products and snacks (unchanged), 9,000 tons of rolls and roasts (down from 10,500) and 35,000 tons of other value-added products (off from 36,500).

Some of Britain's foreign frozen food trade still follows tradition. Imports included, for example, 99,806 tons of lamb and mutton, mostly from New Zealand. Cod fillets, most from Iceland and Denmark, are another example. Britain is a substantial importer of green beans (16,438 tons last year), corn (29,075), miscellaneous vegetables (43,956) -- and, especially, potato products (151,193 tons, mostly from the Netherlands and Belgium; the home supplier can't keep Britons in chips!)


Bakery products accounted for nearly all the rise in French FF consumption in 1991, with a 38% increase from 216,896 to 299,416 tons. There were smaller advances in potato products (up 7.1% to 359,935 tons) and ready meals (up 4.1% to 143,455), but they were largely offset by declines in fish and seafood (down 4.4% to 136,601 tons) and meat (off 2.5% to 133,454).

A detailed breakdown for 1990 is not available, but the components of the advancing market for private label bakery products in France in 1991 included bread (81,400 tons) croissants and the like (56,241), pizza (36,365), meat pastries (30,680), sweet pastries (27,732), quiches (25,042) and crepes (21,473). Fish TABULAR DATA OMITTED TABULAR DATA OMITTED and seafood-based dishes were the largest component of the ready meals category at 45,322 tons, followed by meat-based dishes at 34,224 and lasagne and related dishes at 19,572.

Although French fries dominate the potato products market at 208,340 tons, demand seems to be increasing for other products as well. Imports are more than three times as great as exports across the category (170,151 tons vs. 47,537 last year), and account for most of the pommes allumettes (net consumption 26,193 tons) and miscellaneous items (40,429 tons), and more than 40% of the pommes noisettes (net consumption 32,631 tons) and pommes rissoles (48,558).

Potato products are the largest single import category for France, but imported fish and seafood, at 123,218 tons, dominate that category. Shrimp, at 21,002 tons last year, is the largest single import item. Next is halibut, at 17,326 tons, mostly fillets. The largest export category by far is poultry, including 390,111 tons of "congeles" as well as 28,910 tons of "surgeles" (two different grades of freezing peculiar to France; only "surgeles" are counted as deep-frozen food by the standards of other countries). Whole chickens -- with or without hearts or livers -- accounted for 281,280 tons last year, with the Middle East as the largest market.


If figures published for the Spanish frozen food market seem suspiciously high, you may be right. Official statistics, which put 1991 tonnage at 569.802 (up 6.7% vs. 1990), include not only retail and catering but "industrial" production.

Retail FF consumption last year (actually, December 1990 through November 1991) was a relatively modest 170,686 tons, up 4.6% from 163,257 a year earlier. How much of the rest was for catering and how much for industrial use (perhaps bulk production of ingredients for non-frozen processed foods, or for export) isn't specified. Fish and seafood account for about 35% of retail tonnage, vegetables for 33%, meat and poultry for 15% (although no overall figures for poultry seem to be available), ready meals eight percent and croquettes five or six percent.

Although Spain has targeted the export market, especially in vegetables, it is not yet a major factor in most categories. One of the primary export items is sweet peppers, which accounted for 17,217 tons last year, up from 12,510 in 1990. In fish and seafood, Spain is a leading exporter of frozen tuna for processing into canned -- 89,758 tons last year, vs 90,098 in 1990. Other 1991 exports included 21,784 tons of squid and 12,785 tons of hake. A more unexpected export category for Spain is ice cream; 16,360 tons last year, mostly to neighboring Portugal and the Canary Islands -- but that was a sharp drop from 44,808 tons in 1990.


Italian frozen food consumption, at 412,630 tons for 1991, set another record, which was nothing new. A full report appeared in the July 1992 QFFI (page 43), which detailed the top growth categories (vegetables, fish and seafood, potato products), as well as the shift towards catering.

Italy's largest export business related to the frozen food industry isn't frozen food as such, but equipment. Last year, Italy accounted for 346,777 ECU's out of 633,905 ECU's for all 12 EC countries in exports of refrigerator-freezer combinations, 355,418 ECU's of 731,544 for refrigerators, 232,575 out of 646,165 for freezers, 306,271 out of 619,145 for retail display cabinets TABULAR DATA OMITTED and 263,333 out of 1,555,788 for freezing equipment.

Although they don't rank as FF best sellers, frozen tomatoes should be noted here as an Italian export category (5,834 tons last year) -- because the technology for freezing tomatoes was invented in Italy. But miscellaneous vegetables, at 13,222 tons, outranked them on the country's export list last year.


Frozen food growth in the Netherlands last year, as usual, was slow and steady -- 3.1% to about 277,000 tons (including a guesstimate of 23,000 tons, about 10% of Dutch poultry consumption, for frozen poultry.

Not surprisingly, the largest single category, at 82,300 tons, was potato products (up by the same 3.1% rate as overall consumption). But the Netherlands exports a great deal more than it consumes in that category; shipments last year totaled 619,695, up by 15.7% from 535,650 tons in 1990. Germany accounted for 167,354 tons last year, and Britain for 117,007. France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Greece and Ireland were other strong export markets for Dutch potato products.

But the Netherlands is also a major seafood exporter, with Nigeria, Spain and Italy as primary markets. Exports last year, largely to Nigeria, included 94,735 tons of mackerel, 88,631 tons of herring, 102,300 tons of miscellaneous salt-water fish and more than 10,000 tons each of cod, sole and whiting.


Whether frozen food consumption in Belgium is growing remains unclear. The last official statistical data before 1991 date back to 1988, when total consumption was given as 142,460 tons. Last year's total, perhaps from a different source, was only 137,575, including an estimate (apparently) of 50,000 tons for catering.

During the two years Belgium failed to file reports, the Council of Danish Frozen Food Industries put in estimates of 150,000 tons for 1989 and 165,000 tons for 1990. In specific categories, the 1991 report shows only 19,365 tons of retail vegetables (vs. 40,000 tons for all vegetables in 1988), 42,100 tons of retail potato products (vs. 53,200 tons overall in 1988), 22,000 tons of retail bakery products (vs. a scant 2,000, probably defined differently, in 1988) and 12,350 tons of retail fish and seafood (vs. 12,200 overall in 1988).

Like the neighboring Netherlands, Belgium (for which trade statistics are combined with Luxembourg's) is a major exporter of frozen potato products. These totaled 178,932 tons last year, up from 147,916 in 1990; France was the largest export market, at 75,612 tons, followed by the Netherlands and Britain (substantial trade between Belgium and the Netherlands, both major producers, presumably involves different kinds of items -- or else is price-driven).



Recession came to the Swedish frozen food industry last year, with consumption off one percent to 248,692 tons. Except for the fairly minor category of fruits and berries, there weren't any spectacular changes in overall consumption -- potato products were up six percent to 34,402 tons, for example; meat down five percent to 49,549.

As noted in QFFI's Scandinavian roundup, (July 1992, page 62-63), the retail FF sector is outperforming catering -- up four percent, to 129,741 tons, vs. a six percent decline for catering to 118,951. But again, except for fruits and berries and bakery products (also a minor category), there were no spectacular changes. The same held even within broad categories; in retail vegetables, for example, the biggest increase was eight percent for broccoli (to 1,347) and the biggest decrease three percent for spinach (to 2,846), while the largest item (mixed vegetables) was up four percent to 9,671.

Frozen food volume was off 10% at fast food restaurants and 12% at conventional restaurants; higher taxes are blamed for the decline in eating out, as workers brown bag it to lunch and stay home for dinner.


Frozen food consumption in Switzerland increased four percent last year, to 152,700 tons, with bakery products leading the growth -- up 13% to 14,700. But poultry was still the largest single category, at 38,800 tons -- up seven percent.

Factors working in favor of increased poultry consumption are that it is relatively inexpensive, and also healthy (a salmonella scare that had previously impacted sales is over). A strong trend towards poultry parts, as opposed to whole birds, was evident last year, and the Swiss Frozen Food Institute said imports were "noteworthy" (these totaled only 2,862 tons of chicken from EC countries, with TABULAR DATA OMITTED unboned legs accounting for half of that, but more may have come from non-EC sources), but added that domestic production is also strong.

Domestic sources account for more than half the frozen vegetables, consumption of which was up one percent to 29,900 tons last year. Switzerland also supplies all its own frozen potato products (up two percent to 29,300 tons last year, with a 4.3% increase on the retail side. Reduced fat content, thanks to new production techniques, is credited in part for the increase. High prices were blamed for the one percent decline in fish and seafood products, to 17,000 tons. Half the category, dominated by finfish elsewhere, is in crustaceans and molluscs in Switzerland.


At 44 kilograms a year, Denmark has the second-highest per capita consumption of frozen food in the world, after the United States, but following several decades of steady and rapid growth, the market may finally be leveling off.

Last year's 4.4% increase was largely on paper, with the 123% "growth" in fish and seafood only reflecting improved reporting in most categories (although the gain for shrimp, from 4,630 to 10,024 tons, may have been real). On the other hand, tonnage for ready meals is believed to have been understated last year: and "other fast food" line, for example, shows 2,788 tons but the real total may have been about 5,000. The greatest real gains, however, were for potato products, up 39.9% to 19.161 tons. Poultry (up 8.6%) grew at the expense of meat (down 22.4%), in part because of a trend to vacuum-packed as opposed to frozen meat.



Bad weather cut into the Danish vegetable harvest last year, affecting not only the domestic market (down 26% from 43,387 to 32,117 tons), but exports as well -- shipments of frozen peas were off from 26,878 to 24,554 tons (Italy was the primary market). There were exceptions, however; Danish exports of miscellaneous vegetables were actually up from 10,929 to 12,925 tons, with neighboring Germany the largest market. But Denmark is primarily an importer, especially in fish and seafood -- last year's imports included shrimp from Greenland, cod from both the Soviet Union and Portugal, sable-fish fillets from the Faroe Islands and Atlantic salmon from Norway.


Austria, according to the second report received by the Swiss Frozen Food Institute, has the second-fastest growing frozen food market in Europe, with a 9.7% increase to 105,580 tons -- excluding poultry and meat. If the rate of poultry consumption is similar to that in neighboring Germany, or even Switzerland, the overall FF volume might well be as much as 150,000 tons.

Surprisingly, Austrian figures show an actual decline in potato products, from 25,800 to 25,100 tons; on the other hand, reported consumption of bakery products more than doubled, from 10,400 to TABULAR DATA OMITTED 22,000. That may largely reflect a shift of pizza from the ready meals to the bakery products column, however, as tonnage for ready meals is shown as down from 8,300 to 2,950 tons.


Frozen food consumption in Finland was off 1.2% to 68,143 tons, and while it is tempting to assume that the same factors are at work as in neighboring Sweden, that evidently isn't the case. Based on the retail vs. catering shares (excluding meat and poultry), it was the retail market that suffered, with tonnage (exclusive, again, of meat and poultry) declining from about 28,500 to 27,500 tons, and catering increasing from 23,600 to 25,700 (declines in meat and poultry themselves contributed to the net decline; but there were far greater losses in fruits and juices and ready meals).


In Norway, meanwhile, consumption was up less than one percent to 87,759 tons. Frozen fish exports were up from 321,000 to 427,000 tons, but domestic consumption was actually down 4.3% to 11,723. The fastest-growing domestic markets, by contrast, were poultry, up 7.8% to 10,564 tons; and potato products, up 7.5% to 9,269.

A substantial part of the frozen fish exports from Norway consisted of farmed salmon, which is usually sold on the chilled market. Both in 1990 and 1991, a lot of it had to be frozen because of a glut that had sent prices plunging and forced the country's salmon marketing firm into bankruptcy.

The overall increase in exports last year came despite the slump on cod stocks, usually the mainstay of the fishing industry here. Cod stocks are expected to recover this year and next.


No official report is available for Greece, but Thessalonika-based Onia Ltd. estimated the market last year at 77,000 tons (see QFFI, April 1992, page 60), or about 7.7 kilograms per capita (slightly higher than for neighboring Italy). Domestic frozen vegetable consumption is about 31,000 tons (25,000 tons production, less 7,000 tons exports, plus 13,000 tons imports), and french fries apparently account for about 23,000 (based on 1.5 kilograms per capita, vs. two kilograms for vegetables).

Nothing at all has come out of Portugal or Ireland, which may have per capita rates similar to those for Italy or Spain. Whatever they contributed to the European total is presumably offset by the amount reported for Spain that does not actually reflect domestic consumption there. Still, counting the Greek market, plus Austrian meat and poultry consumption, the total market for frozen food in Europe might have been in the neighborhood of 7.5 million tons last year.

Now that Communism has fallen in Eastern Europe, frozen food will no doubt become part of the consumer economies there, especially in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. While no figures are available yet, we look forward to having something to tell a year from now.

COPYRIGHT 1992 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:1992 Global Frozen Foods Almanac; frozen foods
Author:Pierce, J.J.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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