Fieldfare is changing the face of frozen
Fieldfare had been selling loose, frozen food for more than 40 years before embarking on its first major rebrand. And its new modern look is part of a plan, led by MD Matt Whelan, to attract a new type of customer and grow its presence further in independent retail.
“Frozen is no longer a barrier, perceptions have changed there,” says Fieldfare MD Matt Whelan, when discussing the company’s first foray into marketing beyond the trade. “But many consumers aren’t familiar with our concept, so we’re trying to convert them.”
It’s fitting that Whelan is meeting FFD at The Udder Farm Shop in Dorset, a long-term customer that exemplifies the simple-yet-effective concept of allowing customers to scoop their own loose frozen goods on the shop floor.
Fieldfare has been selling an ever-growing range of scoop-your-own foods from chest freezers in farm shops for more than 42 years with a great deal of success, but is now hoping to grow its customer base beyond its stalwart clientele of 40-60-year-olds.
Now, the brand is targeting a younger, more environmentally savvy market with the first consumer-facing advertising campaign in the company’s history, which highlights its zero-waste credentials. “We’re trying to become more dynamic,” Whelan tells FFD.
Founded in 1978 in Kent by Richard and Ann Cryer, the family business’s unique retail concept has endured, and its chest freezers can now be found in more than 350 stockists across the UK. The brand’s ubiquity has not put paid to the directors’ desire for further growth, though, as its recent marketing activity proves.
Starting last March with a complete rebrand – overseen by London-based agency Big Fish – and continued with the launch of the advertising campaign in September, the end goal is to raise Fieldfare’s profile among consumers.
Its new eye-catching livery will drive in-store presence, but the biggest job facing the business is increasing awareness in the public, says Whelan.
Having operated in the same way for more than four decades, he says, the time is right for a change.
Packaging-free options are increasing in popularity, with zero-waste hoppers frequently being found in independent shops, and the range of products on offer is growing, too. Fieldfare’s campaign is looking to capitalise on this momentum.
Launched under the banner #Chooseloose, the series of adverts and advertorials highlights the environmental credentials of the brand: allowing consumers to buy only what they need in a format largely free of packaging.
And these efforts seem to be paying dividends. At The Udder Farm Shop, manager Nick Edwards has seen the brand buck trends.
“We’ve definitely seen sales grow since the rebrand last year, there’s no doubt about that,” he says. “The only section of our business that’s in decline is frozen, but Fieldfare has continued to be in growth.”
Edwards puts this down to changing consumer behaviour. “There’s definitely a big shift toward more conscious consumerism, and Fieldfare has always done it and done it really well.”
At Udder, sales of Fieldfare products have grown at a similar rate to the shop’s refill section, which the manager attributes to the brand’s environmental credentials. And, while Fieldfare’s core customer – 40-60-year-olds – has been increasingly scooping their own, the farm shop manager has also seen a younger shopper taking more interest in the offer.
This slice of the market is a target for Fieldfare. Gen Z and Millennials are the two groups most likely to make purchasing decisions based on environmental concerns and, with many of the latter now firmly in their 30s, the power of their pound is only growing.
Fortunately for the brand, it is not short on green credentials. The campaign draws on the environmental benefits of lower food waste and less packaging, but additionally, the brand’s chest freezers consume roughly a third of the energy of a standard upright freezer, while its scoop-your-own bags are biodegradable.
“We’re now working with a social media advertising company,” says Whelan. “We’re trying to draw new consumers into farm shops and delis to get them to understand: if you like loose, lower-waste food, we’re here. Come and see us.”
The campaign, spread across Instagram and Facebook (TikTok was a stretch too far this time for Whelan), is aimed at educating consumers on the process of shopping Fieldfare’s products; something that the MD recognises is the biggest obstacle for uninitiated shoppers.
“We need to get the end customer to understand the concept of loose, frozen food – it’s not something that we can just assume consumers will immediately understand,” he says.
When social media users interact with the campaign, the team highlights local stockists to capitalise on the momentum, and Whelan is pleased with the initial feedback.
He says the offer fits perfectly with the modern world in which families are often catering to a variety of dietary choices, allowing consumers to buy only what they need. And, with an ever-growing range of more than 150 lines, you would be hard-pressed to argue.
NPD is another area the business is targeting to draw in new customers. With trendy lines added last year, such as rainbow fries and Portuguese custard tarts, and more in the pipeline for the spring, Fieldfare hopes to further appeal to a younger consumer.
By growing the brand’s presence and relevance among new consumers, it is also aiming to grow its appeal to its core customer: independent retailers. And the new branding and ad campaign seem to be achieving this.
New customer inquiries have increased, Fieldfare’s existing customers have expanded the number of freezers in their operations as sales have grown following the campaign, and end consumers have been increasingly seeking out the brand’s produce online, according to its own data.
But it isn’t job done, says Whelan. The brand’s #Chooseloose campaign is set to continue alongside more social media advertising and more advertorial content in print magazines.
“We want to keep talking to the shoppers, but also our stockists. Staying in touch with retailers and engaging them with the brand is key to making sure we’re doing everything we can to drive traffic to their stores.”
And this collaborative approach underpins the business’s relationships with its customers. Whelan says when new stockists come on board, the idea is to have Fieldfare’s offer fit with the retailer’s pre-existing proposition. Livery is not compulsory, and, while the initial range proposition is data-driven, it is not set in stone and is designed to complement each shop.
“We’re not about forcing the hand of any retailers,” says Whelan. “We’re about collaboration and working with business owners to find the right range for them.”
Business at Fieldfare, for Whelan, is about nurturing good relationships in this way. And it is this that has seen the supplier struggle less during the recent supply chain crisis.
Edwards, Udder’s manager, says that, while the shop’s staff had to drive to the depot of another frozen food supplier to stock up, Fieldfare always managed to keep the farm shop in stock. “Keeping the availability up is key,” he says.
While Whelan admits the business has not been impervious, he says its strong relationship with its distribution partner has served it well. “We try very hard to focus on our customers.”
While the rebrand and advertising campaign seem to be having the desired effect, Whelan is keen to keep the momentum going with more NPD being released in the coming months and plans to launch in-store sampling this year – an attempt to bring the products out of the freezer and before consumers’ senses. Though, with the COVID situation still uncertain, the brand may have to keep the more tactile plans on ice for now.
Fieldfare’s strategy is very straightforward, as Whelan sees it: Work with more stockists and give them compelling reasons to have more freezer space, and then communicate to their shoppers to pull people into their stores. “It really is that simple,” he says.
“That and always delivering delicious products. That’s all we’re doing.”