Value, convenience keep shoppers drawn to frozen foods

Inflation hasn’t steered consumers away from this grocery basket mainstay, a new Advantage Solutions study shows.
Advantage Solutions' survey found that 71% of consumers plan to buy about the same amount of frozen foods over the next three to six months, and 10% expect to buy more. / Photo: Russell Redman

Frozen foods remain a staple item on grocery shopping lists, though elevated inflation has led many consumers to take a closer look at pricing before purchasing, according to new research from Advantage Solutions.

Of more than 1,000 U.S. grocery shoppers polled, 56% said they have bought about the same amount of frozen foods as they purchased since inflation began impacting prices, according to Advantage Solutions’ “What’s Hot in the Frozen Foods Aisle” report, released this month. The CPG and retail sales and marketing firm said 10% of respondents reported buying more frozen items, yet 31% indicated purchasing fewer frozens as food pricing rose due to inflation.

Similarly, 71% of consumers surveyed plan to buy about the same amount of frozen food products over the next three to six months. Seven percent expect to purchase “much less” and 12% “somewhat less” frozen foods, while 8% aim to buy “somewhat more” and 2% “much more” over that time span.

Advantage Solutions-Whats Hot in the Frozen Foods Aisle report-Feb2023-purchases

Source: Advantage Solutions, "What's Hot in the Frozen Foods Aisle" report, Feburary 2023.

Value and convenience are the primary sales drivers for frozen products at the grocery store, Advantage’s study showed. Half of shoppers see frozen foods as a good value or cost-effective. Likewise, 44% think frozen products cost less than their fresh counterparts, and 43% see these items as less wasteful than corresponding fresh offerings.

Frozens rate much higher on the convenience scale. Sixty-eight percent of respondents agreed frozen foods are a “great option” for novice cooks and, in turn, 64% deem these products as more convenient than their fresh counterparts. Also, 61% of shoppers reported good in-stock rates for the frozen items they seek, and frozen options meet the dietary restrictions of 45% of consumers.

“Frozen foods have a better reputation as ‘a good value,’ with half of surveyed grocery shoppers saying so. More than four in 10 agree frozen foods are less costly than their fresh counterparts (two in 10 disagree with this sentiment), and a similar percentage agree they are ‘less wasteful,’” Advantage Solutions explained in its report. “Most frozen foods shoppers agree: These products are a great option if you don’t know how to cook something from scratch, are more convenient than their fresh alternatives and they’re usually in stock.”

Unsurprisingly, pizza—a mainstay of the frozens case—led all categories in terms of the frozen products that those surveyed said they plan to buy (62%) over the next three to six months. That was followed by vegetables (cited by 56% of shoppers), meat/meat substitutes (54%), breakfast foods (52%), ice cream/novelties (52%) and potatoes/fries (51%).
Consumers also named single-serve dinners/entrees (45%), appetizers/snack rolls (44%), multi-serving dinners/entrees (43%), fruit (43%), pasta (38%), seafood (32%) and juices (31%) as frozen offerings they expect to purchase in the upcoming three to six months.

Advantage Solutions-Whats Hot in the Frozen Foods Aisle report-Feb2023-planned purchases

Source: Advantage Solutions, "What's Hot in the Frozen Foods Aisle" report, Feburary 2023.

Advantage’s study revealed that 62% of shoppers polled buy frozen foods for dinner, compared with 47% for dessert, 45% for lunch, 41% for snacks and 37% for breakfast. In terms of portion size, 51% of consumers said they purchase frozen items packaged as a side dish and 49% buy these products packaged as full meals or entrees.

“What motivates grocery shoppers to try a new frozen food product? A coupon or trial offer or free sample are strong influencers,” the Advantage report said. “When frozen foods are on the list, more than half of shoppers who discover their desired frozen item out of stock will often or always choose a similar item. More than half say they’re likely to buy value-priced frozen products and store brands, while about four in 10 are as likely to buy a premium brand.”

Indeed, cost plays a key role in driving frozen purchases. Fifty-four percent of survey respondents said they will buy new frozen items with a coupon or trial offer, and 46% will do so after trying a free sample. Along the same lines, 54% of shoppers report purchasing value-priced frozen foods, and 53% buy their preferred grocer’s store-brand frozen products. Forty percent said they buy premium-brand frozen foods.

Advantage Solutions-Whats Hot in the Frozen Foods Aisle report-Feb2023-categories

Source: Advantage Solutions, "What's Hot in the Frozen Foods Aisle" report, Feburary 2023.

Going forward, the frozen food category has more work to do in customer perceptions of quality and nutrition, according to Advantage’s findings. Half of consumers agreed that frozen foods have a lot of preservatives and sodium. Also, only 33% consider frozen foods as having the same or better quality than corresponding fresh items, and 25% think frozen dinners, snacks and entrees are as nutritious as their fresh-made counterparts.

Shoppers’ frozen food perceptions are stronger on the produce side. Fifty-three percent deem frozen fruit/vegetables as nutritious as the fresh articles, while 54% see frozen fruit/vegetables as higher in quality than the canned items.

“U.S. grocery shoppers have mixed feelings about the quality and ingredients used in frozen foods compared to similar fresh products. Only one-third of respondents agree frozen foods are of the same or better quality as their fresh counterparts,” Advantage observed. “But when it comes to fruits and vegetables specifically, more than half believe frozen are the same or better quality as canned and nearly as many agree they’re as nutritious as fresh. Still, only one-fourth of shoppers believe frozen dinners, snacks and entrees are as nutritious as freshly made. A full one-half perceive frozen foods to ‘have lots of preservatives and/or sodium.’”



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