National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

I read with interest that the frozen food industry is planning a “makeover” ad campaign designed to warm consumer perceptions of their products.

Why does frozen food need this “makeover”?

Consider Wendy’s tagline for its burgers: “Fresh, never frozen.” When a fast food restaurant creates an ad that encourages consumers’ chilly attitudes toward frozen, public relations professionals are about to earn a big payday.

From the report in NPR’s “Salt” blog,  we find that frozen food manufacturers are “alarmed” that the U.S. public equates fresh with healthy.

One nutritionist with Con-Agra Food confided in the story that what consumers think of as “fresh” in the supermarket is better thought of as “raw.”

But wait, there's more! Listen to this quote about fresh vegetables in the NPR blog from Kristin Reimers, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition for ConAgra Foods. "A lot of times, those vegetables have been transported for days, and then sit. It could be a matter of weeks between when they're picked and consumed."

Contrast the weeks-old “raw” veggies to what she called “nutrient-rich” frozen version and what right-thinking American wouldn’t lean to frozen?

Advertising Age has reported on a new prospective ad campaign that could approach $50 million by what is called the Frozen Food Roundtable. That group includes ConAgra, General Mills, Heinz, Kellogg and others.

In my view, the frozen food folks would like to blunt the effective appeal of “fresh” on U.S. consumers. Make no mistake, the fresh produce industry, which has been so generous to processors in the context of “all forms count” messaging – will be losers if they succeed.

 How should the fresh industry respond to this shot across the bow? This may be the time and opportunity for a "fresh only" collective promotion campaign for fruits and vegetables.