The Frozen Explosion

Recent years are seeing a sudden growth in frozen food consumption, driven largely by millennials, who spent an average of 9% more on frozen foods in 2017 than other demographics. Millennials now wield a combined 1.3 trillion dollar budget for annual spending, and frozen foods are increasingly appealing to their cost- and health-conscious food habits. Some frozen foods that are sparking new interest among consumers include:

  • Meat substitutes. Meatless substitutes for burgers and sausages are increasingly popular among young people, and among more eco-conscious consumers. Sales of plant-based meat products grew 6% in 2016, and are projected to enjoy further growth in coming years, as consumers turn toward plant-based foods for health and environmental reasons.
  • Premium ready meals. Frozen ready meals dominate the market in Europe, accounting for nearly 31% of frozen food sales, and premium and private-label options are increasingly appealing to foodie millennials as well as more prosperous western Europeans.
  • Finger foods and appetizers. The frozen snack category has long been anchored by staples like chicken nuggets, potato skins, and pizza rolls. But in recent years, as manufacturers have innovated their offerings and added more upscale, ethnic, and vegan options, frozen snacks and appetizers are enjoying renewed interest and growth.  

And it’s not just the products themselves that are changing. Frozen food companies are refining their marketing approach and communicating messages that resonate with consumers. Some of the messages that are influencing growth include:

  1. Frozen produce reduces waste. Globally, nearly one third of all edible food is wasted. While fresh produce typically has a lower environmental impact during processing and storage, fresh produce is more likely to be wasted and discarded in the home, as consumers’ produce purchasing habits don’t align with their consumption. Frozen produce contributes much less to global food waste, as it is the least likely of all foods to be discarded by consumers. Reducing food waste is better for the environment, and better for the budget, and is one of the driving factors for the increase in frozen food sales.
  2. Frozen foods are healthy.  A two year study published by the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis showed that, in many instances, frozen produce is actually more nutritious than fresh produce stored in the refrigerator at home. Frozen vegetables are blanched early in production, which ceases plant respiration and enzymatic reactions, and preserves more delicate nutrients, and may improve the availability of fat-soluble carotenes. A frozen vegetable retains its nutrients over 12 months of proper storage in a freezer better than a fresh vegetable stored for 7 days in a refrigerator.
  3. Frozen foods are high in quality. Frozen foods have historically been a staple of convenience. But consumers are responding not just to messages of speed and convenience; there is also a perceived increase in the quality of frozen foods, and product labels that emphasize local, organic, high-quality foods.

These claims are backed by sophisticated freezing and preservation methods during manufacture. Today’s freezing technologies use steam blanching and rapid cooling systems that better preserve the flavors and nutrients of foods, making them more appealing to taste- and health-conscious consumers.

The recent growth in the frozen foods market, along with the increasing range of products and product categories, is creating new opportunities for growth, innovation, and exploration in a market that past years had overlooked.

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