As we set to close out “National Frozen Food Month”, new data from the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) revealed the frozen food sector has experienced a resurgence thanks to more brands rolling out innovative products in response to consumer demand for healthier options.
In 2013, NFRA launched its “Real Food. Frozen” campaign to showcase how frozen foods are created using real ingredients, chef-inspired recipes and fresh flavors. The campaign was developed to increase positive frozen food conversation and to communicate to consumers that the most versatile foods can be found in the frozen food aisle, including options for every lifestyle and every food occasion. NFRA generated a major increase in year- over-year social volume and engagement through its owned and partner content. Key messaging centered around how frozen foods are affordable and offer convenience, lack of waste, comparable nutrition value and portion control
According to NFRA, frozen food manufacturers are delivering innovative options, with the number of wellness claims on frozen food packages increasing and driving growth in the sector. Specifically, non-GMO (genetically modified organism) claims increased 10.1 percent, followed by organic claims (9.3 percent). gluten-free claims (4.2 percent) and free-from artificial colors/flavor claims (6.3 percent) in 2018 over the previous year.
“There is so much innovation in the aisle today. Products are now aligned with new consumer dining habits and health trends, and new foods and cuisines are enticing and satisfying today’s foodies,” said NFRFA President and CEO Skip Shaw. “Established brands have been freshening their lineups while innovative startups have been launching new concepts, all spurring 26 percent of all U.S. grocery shoppers shopping the aisle more frequently, and 43 percent of Millennials buying more frozen items.”
NFRA noted a continued shift in the conversation and changing consumer perceptions about the benefits of frozen foods. What’s more, the frozen category has benefited from increased media coverage and social media play. Consider the $4.7 billion frozen pizza sector that witnessed a 5.2 percent increase in dollar sales in the last year. The frozen vegetable sector also was up by the same amount, according to Nielsen data.
As consumers’ eating habits are changing, they are recognizing the value and convenience of frozen foods for every meal occasion. According to Nielsen data, dollar sales of frozen food rose significantly in 2018. Subcategories witnessing the largest jumps in sales were smoothies (13 percent), frozen breakfast meals (8.3 percent), waffles (4.9 percent), breakfast sausages (4.4 percent) and breakfast sandwiches (3.9 percent).
Furthermore, Packaged Facts’ “U.S. Food Market Outlook 2018” report noted the frozen dinner and entrée market hit $10 billion in retail value, with growth coming from higher-priced products offering premium ingredients, as well as those perceived to be healthier, more nutritious, and made from real and natural ingredients. The reported predicted plant-based foods will continue to drive innovation as natural, organic and “real” food resonate with consumers as do nutritious ingredients like beans and grains.