If there was ever a category poised for growth, it would be frozen fish food. Although frozen products have been around for decades, the category is seeing some momentum lately for a variety of reasons, all of which provide retailers an opportunity to build sales and increase traffic within the store. Good displays, an emphasis on customer education and good-quality frozen products that are appealing to fish and meet customers’ needs are some of the reasons manufacturers report this category is growing in popularity.
In addition to a growing interest, the numbers show there is plenty of room for growth sales in this category. The most recent American Pet Products Association (APPA) survey shows the number of people purchasing frozen foods hovering around 50 percent for saltwater and 8 percent for freshwater, statistics that have remained relatively stagnant for 10 years.
More than 90 percent of freshwater hobbyists make an audience ripe for introduction to frozen foods.
First Comes the Freezer
Increasing sales of frozen foods means getting the product out in front of the customer. Gone are the days when frozen fish food was relegated to a freezer chest in the back of the store. Today’s equipment manufacturers offer a wide variety of glass door freezers to display frozen products in the best possible way, including single or double door and counter top models. Even a standard freezer can be made to look inviting with a vinyl wrap.
No matter what type of freezer you use, make sure the food is displayed in an appealing manner. Packages should be upright, and product pushers help keep things right in front of the case, visible to the customer and easy to reach once the door is open. Freezer placement is also important. Be sure to install your freezer in a high traffic area rather than a back room. This makes it more convenient for your customers, but also brings attention to the frozen food category for those who might be shopping for other products.
In addition, take advantage of what frozen food manufacturers have to offer when it comes to promoting frozen foods. Many food manufacturers provide special posters and graphics to bring awareness to the products. Ocean Nutrition even offers a program where a retailer purchases a freezer that is packed with free product.
“By selling the product that comes in the freezer, it ultimately pays for itself,” said Jason Oneppo, research and development manager, Ocean Nutrition.
Stay on Top of Trends
One thing driving sales in the frozen food category is the abundance of new products for customers to choose from, all with the health of fish and convenience for the customer in mind. Single ingredient frozen foods have long been a mainstay of this category, but customized blends are making a big impact as well.
Two of the newer products from Rod’s Food, launched a couple of years ago, include a freshwater blend for small and large-mouth fish.
“We were seeing a demand from freshwater customers, and discus enthusiasts in particular, looking for a product that contained the astaxanthin and beta carotene of our saltwater blend in a freshwater option,” said Rod Buehler, owner of Rod’s Food.
Larry DuPont, owner of LRS Foods, also saw an opportunity in customized blends. His Frenzy foods provide blends of fresh, human-grade seafood for saltwater fish, with specialty combinations for herbivores, reefs and breeders.
“It all started because I was trying to figure out a way to make feeding the fish in my own 600 gallons of aquariums a little easier,” DuPont said. “I was spending so much time separating out all of the food for each aquarium, I decided it would be easier if I could combine it in some way. I worked with different recipes and blends to make my own combination, and things just grew from there. Our food is successful because it is so fresh even finicky fish devour our foods.”
Frozen food blends are also convenient for reef tanks. Rather than worrying about multiple packages of single ingredient foods for different types of fish and corals, products such as Ocean Nutrition’s Prime Reef, LRS’ Reef Frenzy, Omega One’s Reef Formula and Rod’s Food Original Blend are designed to feed everything in a reef aquarium with one food.
“Our ‘one-stop’ food has increased in popularity for a few reasons,” Buehler said. “Not only is it simpler to feed the whole reef aquarium from one package, but fresh-frozen seafood helps improve the health and vibrancy of fish and corals.”
Size also matters. A few years ago, manufacturers of frozen foods saw the booming trend in nano aquariums and answered it with blends designed specifically for these tanks.
“Nano fish need smaller foods, therefore our Nano Frenzy is ground 15 percent finer than our regular Reef Frenzy,” DuPont said.
While nano products are still in demand, there has been an increasing popularity of larger, predator fish. LRS’ Chunky formula is designed for bigger fish with larger pieces of seafood. Ocean Nutrition also offers a predator flat pack, an option that works better than cubes for large tanks.
“After seeing a cycle in the trends, more people are getting large tanks,” Oneppo said. “Flat packs allow people to buy in bulk and break off as much or as little food as they need. It also allows for larger chunks of fish within the product, since the formula doesn’t have to fit in small cubes.”
Another trend in frozen food is toward convenience for the customer. Frozen food has a reputation for being messy and time consuming, with products that need to be thawed and then handled before putting in the aquarium. But new pouches and cube packs, such as Omega One’s Frozen Pod Pouches, allow hobbyists to pop in the frozen food without even touching the product. Ocean Nutrition’s cubes are made with a gel derived from fish and seaweed that is digestible and holds the cubes together in the aquarium without the use of a binder, so they don’t break apart when thawed and the amino acids and vitamins are locked into the cube.
Ocean Nutrition also offers multi-packs for saltwater, freshwater and reef tanks. These packages include two formula foods and two different single ingredient foods, such as fish eggs and reef plankton in the reef multi-pack.
“This packaging allows people to provide variety without having to purchase a lot of different products and take up space in the freezer,” Oneppo said. “They’re especially good for smaller aquariums.”
The Frozen Advantage
While fish might see a benefit from the fresh ingredients of frozen food, retailers will find a benefit in the category’s ability to drive traffic into the store.
“Frozen food is still difficult and expensive to buy online, so for the most part, hobbyists are still walking into the store to buy it,” said Kelly Randall, marketing director of Omega Sea LLC. “That’s great for retailers because while they’re in the store they’ll probably buy other things as well. It’s a real opportunity.”
In addition, some products, such as LRS’ Frenzy blends, are sold exclusively in stores.
“We’re a small family business, and we want retailers to know we support them, which is why we require a brick and mortar store when opening a wholesale account,” DuPont said.
Keeping frozen foods visible and top of mind is another way to drive traffic. Promotions and coupons, such as a discount on a frozen product with the purchase of flake food, might introduce more people to the products. Talk to customers, show them the different options of foods for their aquariums, and even do some live feeding demonstrations. There’s nothing like seeing an aquarium full of fish in a frenzy over food to entice customers to make a new purchase.