In from the cold: the rise of the freezer

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It’s hard to imagine these days, but not that long ago Brits hardly ever ate frozen food – except for possibly a seaside ice cream. That’s because hardly any households owned a freezer. Though Birds Eye had launched the frozen fish finger in 1955 to great acclaim, freezers were an expensive luxury and beyond the reach of most consumers until the 1970s.

In 1970 just 4% of UK households had a freezer; by 1978 it had climbed to 41%. It has now hit 98%, and with freezers have come an increasing number of frozen food brands and offerings as well as shops dedicated to selling sub-zero food.

In recent years, as more consumers recognise freezing as one of the best ways to save food waste and guarantee freshness, freezing has become fashionable once again. What’s more, those keen to help the planet can take comfort from the increasing number of reusable containers now available.

A recent Lakeland survey of 3000 UK consumers discovered over 27% of people are already using reusable freezer bags as their go-to product for freezing at home.

The freezer’s rehabilitation has also been helped by the plummeting cost of freezers themselves as well as the rise of increasingly gourmet frozen food brands. And, of course, 2020’s lockdown has played a part. Keen to ensure they did not waste ingredients in their larder or food in their fridge, consumers turned to batch cooking and freezing. Of those surveyed, 50% said they’d wasted less food compared to the previous year.

Lakeland’s survey asked the public over the last six months, what have they mostly used their freezer to store, the results were as below,

Shop-bought ready meals: 34%
Home-made batch-cooked meals: 33%
Shop-bought ice cream and lollies: 11%
Leftovers: 9%
Other: 13%

50 years of home freezing expertise

Batch cooking and freezing meals for the week ahead, bulk buying and freezing fresh produce, home-made ice cream… the freezer has become an invaluable accessory in our kitchens, helping us get prepared and save money. But turn back time to the 1970s, and many people weren’t so sure about how to use their frosty friend… Thankfully, Lakeland were there to help, launching their freezer helpline to answer people’s frozen food queries and publishing Everything About Home Freezing – A Complete Guide For Anyone With A Freezer. To make people’s journey into the world of freezing even easier, they put together their Freezeasy pack – a starter pack with various freezer bags, containers, blanching baskets and how-to guides. They even made a film produced with home economists, sharing essential advice on home freezing – like how to safely freeze different types of food – which local groups like the WI could hire for their meetings.

Fast forward 50 years, and Lakeland are still sharing their wealth of freezing expertise with their customers through their emails and blog, like Customer Ambassador Wendy’s top freezing tips:

To maximise energy consumption, try to keep your freezer full.

To reduce waste, label and date everything so you can use the oldest first.

Don’t waste space with half empty freezer boxes – reusable freezer bags take up far less space as unused parts can be flattened.

Freeze berries in trays – this stops the berries from being squashed. Once they’re frozen, pop them in a box or a bag. As berries can go off very quickly, this is a great way to save money and reduce waste.

Always lay a piece of parchment paper on the top of sauces and ice-cream to prevent crystals forming.

If you have a glut of fruit, like apples, peel, chop and store them in bags in pie-sized portions – I add my cinnamon and sugar before freezing so I can just grab one when I fancy making an apple pie.

When I’m making gravy I always make double and freeze half for a later date – in fact I always double up on any type of stew or casserole and freeze excess for those days I need a quick dinner solution. It’s cheaper too as you can take advantage of supermarket bulk-buy offers.

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