Despite rising prices of frozen foods, consumer demand for products in the category continues to grow, according to new research from sales and marketing services firm Acosta.
With 98% of households purchasing frozen food, and 86% of those shoppers visiting the frozen food section during most or all of their shopping visits, innovation is key to keeping sales in the category hot.
According to data from NielsenIQ, frozen foods sales have exceeded $70 billion over the past year, a 7.6% increase over 2021 and a jump of 31% over 2019. Value, convenience and healthy options are the three key drivers of sales, according to Acosta.
"Two years ago, our research attributed frozen food sales growth predominantly to the pandemic and the resulting evolution of consumer demand with more people cooking at home," said Kathy Risch, senior vice president, Consumer Insights and Trends at Acosta. "Today, even as the average unit price for frozen products has risen 15% over 2021, consumers continue to select frozen as a key part of their food shopping experience."
Currently, there are several consumer shopping trends that are giving a boost to frozen food sales. Two-thirds of consumers believe that frozen food sometimes provides a better value than non-frozen, listing the categories of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish and pizza. Also, shopping for frozen food options at club stores has increased 5%, with 52% of consumers reporting that they’re buying in bulk to save money.
Other key insights about consumer frozen food purchases include:
- 91% purchased desserts – comfort, convenience and indulgence
- 89% purchased prepared foods and 59% of consumers had a frozen main dish recently as a replacement for eating outside the home
- 75% purchased vegetables, as they are often perceived as "healthier" than fresh, and a better value
- 72% said frozen purchases are planned vs. impulse
- Consumers continue to prefer purchasing frozen foods in-store vs. online, citing handling concerns and preference to select as the key barriers
For retailers and manufacturers, Acosta said there are several steps that can be taken to keep frozen food sales growing. This includes clear communication of the value proposition of frozen foods, especially bulk items and using clear marketing and packaging to highlight entrees that help shoppers stretch their dollars.
Additionally, it’s important to highlight the convenience of meal solutions and communicate dinner meal solutions that mix and match frozen with fresh items. Finally, Acosta encourages retailers to strengthen the freezer section shopping experience to make it more fun, enjoyable and engaging.
"There is an opportunity to do more to engage with customers and drive excitement and purchase in the frozen section, in-store and online, through targeted omni-channel marketing, sales promotions and experiential retailing,” said Risch. “Understanding the consumer mindset in frozen will play an important role in supporting anticipated growth and driving purchase decisions.