FRoSTA: Putting your Money Where Your Mission Is - Felix Ahlers, CEO and his food brand make-over story
German frozen foods brand FRoSTA ...
- prepares meals like grandma would have,
- uses natural, unadulterated ingredients,
- puts them on the label in plain language,
- states where the they come from,
- ads no artificial flavors, enhancers or fillers,
- seeks to ensure that the people who grow the food get their fair share of the value creation...
and all of that without being required to do so. - Quite the opposite. It is FRoSTA that lobbies for laws that would provide more transparency on ingredients and methods across the industry.
"Wow - This must be one of those premium-priced, artisinal Honest Food brands that makes Big Food industries' life miserable", you might think. But - wrong again. FR0STA is part of the traditional food industry establishment.
As Felix Ahlers, CEO and Chairman of FRoSTA AG told us, his grandfather founded the business in the 50ies as a deep sea fishing company. His father grew it to become a leading player in frozen foods in Germany, helped by several acquisitions starting in the 70ies. By the time Felix joined the company in 1999, FRoSTA operated across several European markets, relying on 'food technology and -chemistry' to help scale production and keep costs down in the cut-throat supermarket environment. Looking behind the scene did not offer a pretty picture. As Felix says: "Our employees, who knew how our food was made, chose not to eat it."
Loving food and having trained as a chef, Felix had a different idea of how to remain relevant and competitive as a food brand when he assumed a leadership role and led his team to radically revise what and how FRoSTA sourced and how it prepared its meals. "Following the "Reinheitsgebot (purity law)*" and "how grandma would prepare it" became the guiding principle from 2003 and across the assortment - which meant abandoning about half the assortment which could not be made compliant.
In other words FR0STA became a 'Honest Food' brand long before that became hip. It did not 'start-up' from scratch with venture capital support, but 'hard converted' a traditional, industrial business. It did so without compromise. ... And FRoSTA paid a heavy price for its principled, purpose-driven move, as you will hear (hint: they almost went bankrupt).
Looking back and in the long run, however, the brand might just turn out to be one of the rare success stories in evolving an industrial food business in response to changing consumer needs and wants, as the bad news about brands like Heinz, Kraft, or Kellogg's keeps adding up.
We think that FRoSTA has many of the core ingredients - higher Mission, a brand Myth and its unique 'Truth' - that are the foundation to creating an 'Ueber-Brand.' A brand that carries meaning beyond the material, that is peerless and priceless. It 'just' needs some more fine-tuning in bringing its story to life and connecting with it's design target**. Recognizing and talking to these influencers-cum-muse early-on might also have helped buffer some of the impact of the brand transition. -- Don't you think? --
Listen and Enjoy!
For more insights into what drives the success of purpose-driven brands read our book “Rethinking Prestige Branding – Secrets of the Ueberbrands,” and other posts on this blog-cast.
** Here are some questions brands should ask to recognize and leverage their design target - or 'Ueber-Target' as we call the best of them.
If you want us to help you elevate your own brand, then write to us at email@example.com.
Here are links to the FRoSTA corporate site and its online store. And, here is a rare article in English on Felix and the Frosta turn-around story from CEO Magazine. It's easy to find bad new about the traditional prepared food brands nowadays. Whether it is about their brands or their business. Here is just one example.
* Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the "Reinheitsgebot", a beer purity law that the Bavarian authorities enacted in 1516 as brewers started to 'taint' beers with flavors and colors and FRoSTA's modern, frozen food interpretation of it (only available in German).
For a more in-detail look at FRoSTA's stringent ethical, environmental and nutritional commitments and specific actions taken, check out this part of their site: https://www.frosta-ag.com/en/responsibility/
Finally, Wageningen University pulled together a rather complete case study on FR0STA and the European Frozen Food market in 2011 if you really, really want to go into the details.
Fresh fish, real butter, house-made pasta - Food prepared the FRoSTA way.