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The Original Meal Kit? Frozen Food Generates $57 Billion

The category is on the rise and is commanding a bigger part of consumer's wallet share
Photograph: Shutterstock

Riding consumer demand for convenience and variety, the frozen food aisle is courting shoppers more than ever before, according to findings of a new industry research report.

The joint study between the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and Food Marketing Institute (FMI)The Power of Frozen 2019examines the consumption, purchase drivers and use of frozen foods, and it identifies the trends that influence consumer purchases of frozen food, such as taste and variety, factors related to convenience, and claims made in marketing and advertising.

“The frozen food aisle is in the midst of a strong comeback,” said AFFI President and CEO Alison Bodor. “While sales numbers can tell us a lot about the size and strength of the frozen food category, (AFFI) joined forces with FMI to understand the consumption, shopping and use of frozen food.”

Bodor also said that the AFFI-FMI partnership has yielded important research findings, with critical sales and consumption data that begin to provide “a comprehensive 360-degree view of the frozen food aisle.”

Frozen Food’s Comeback?

In 2018, both dollar (+2.6%) and units (+2.3%) grew, with nine of 10 top-selling categories increasing in both dollars and units, ringing up nearly $57 billion of sales annually for retailers.

“In terms of sales, the frozen food category is only a fraction smaller than fresh produce, bigger than all other fresh perimeter departments, bigger than candy and even snacks,” said FMI VP of Industry Relations Doug Baker. “While the category cannot be ignored due to its magnitude, shoppers surveyed in our research requested ways to better optimize their frozen food experience through recipe ideation, coupons, shopper education and improved organization and signage.”

Convenience and Quality Matter Most

In 2018, frozen food growth was driven by more dollars and more trips, but household engagement, according to AFFI and FMI, was largely unchanged. In short, most food shoppers are buying more, and they are visiting frozen food aisles more often. In 2019, core shoppers include older millennials, who are starting to juggle both their families and careers, so millennial shoppers are driven more by convenience and meal preparation than ever before.

In addition to convenience, core frozen food shoppers polled by the study stated they also value the taste, quality, variety and consistency of the food itself, while the millennial cohort also remains willing to be more adventurous and try new cuisines.

The entree category still reigns supreme at $9.2 billion annually, but growth can be seen in most frozen food categories, because individual items such as vegetables and sides are considered by shoppers to be an important part of total meal solution.

“One could argue that frozen meals are the original meal kit,” Bodor noted.

The top-three frozen food categories with the largest percentage of dollar growth, according to the research, include:

  • Soups/sides (+9.8%)
  • Appetizers/snack rolls (+5.8%)
  • Breakfast food (+5.7%)

The Power of Frozen was conducted by 210 Analytics and was made possible by Tommy’s Superfoods, Wawona Frozen Foods, Southeastern Meats and Pictsweet Farms.

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