By John Saulnier, FFB Editorial Director
It’s both encouraging invigorating to see that frozen food promotions are gathering steam around the world, as the trade increasingly sees value in investing capital and devoting creative resources to keep the “Power of Frozen” in the spotlight for consumers to see without obstruction.
A number of years ago Malcolm Walker’s crew at the Iceland Foods supermarket chain launched a successful public relations campaign under the “Power of Frozen” banner in the United Kingdom that remains in the forefront today. Recently, on the other side of the Atlantic, the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) jointly released a report entitled “The Power of Frozen 2019.” The blueprint for continued growth digs into megatrends influencing frozen food purchases in the United States. The focus is on convenience, taste, variety, claims and attributes.
“The frozen food aisle is in the midst of a strong comeback,” said Alison Bodor, president and ceo of Arlington, Virginia-headquartered AFFI. “While sales numbers can tell us a lot about the size and strength of the frozen food category, we joined forces with FMI to understand the consumption, shopping and use of frozen food. These research findings, along with actual sales and consumption data, provide a comprehensive 360° view of the frozen food aisle.”
The study, designed and authored by Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics, was sponsored by Tommy’s Superfoods, Wawona Frozen Foods, Southeastern Meats and Pictsweet Farms. Its interesting insights were delved into on February 25 during the Industry Spotlight Session at the annual AFFI-CON convention in San Diego. Some of the highlights follow:
The Frozen Food Comeback
In 2018, both dollar sales (+2.6%) and units (+2.3%) grew in the US retail sector, with nine out of 10 top-selling categories up in dollars and all 10 up in units. Frozen food is an enormous department for most retailers, ringing up nearly $57 billion per annum nationally.
“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,” according to FMI Vice President 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.”
While frozen food growth was driven by more dollars and trips in 2018, household engagement was largely unchanged. Core frozen food shoppers are buying more and visiting the aisle more often. They tend to be older millennials, juggling families and careers, and heavily focused on convenience in their shopping and meal preparation.
A whopping 99.4% of households in America consume frozen foods purchased at retail stores.
In addition to convenience, core frozen food shoppers stated they also value the taste, quality, variety and consistency of the food itself. They are willing to be more adventurous with their palate and try new cuisines.
The entrée category is still No. 1, generating $9.2 billion in sales annually. However, growth can be seen in most frozen food categories, reflecting how frozen foods are part of the total meal solution.
The top-three frozen food categories with the largest percentage of dollar growth include:
- Soups/Sides Dishes (+9.8%)
- Appetizers/Snack Rolls (+5.8%)
- Breakfast Food (+5.7%)
“One could argue that frozen meals are the original meal kit,” AFFI CEO Bodor noted.
FMI’s Baker added: “The reinvention of center store and frozen is changing the store dynamic once more. Shoppers are meeting their wants and needs in convenience, health and wellbeing, transparency and more by shopping the entire store.”