Constant Cravings

2/5/2014

As snacking evolves, so do frozen snack choices.

Although food consumption is still largely defined by dayparts, those lines are blurring, including in the frozen food aisle. Frozen breaded veggies, for instance, are marketed as convenient snacks, as are frozen breakfast foods like waffle sticks, mini bagels and mini pancakes and entrées like frozen soups and hand-helds.

Busy lifestyles have led to more on-the-go eating and subsequent consumption of frozen snacks. So, too, have shifting attitudes regarding the frequency of snacking and type of snacks.

Katie Strohbeck, assortment manager for KeHE Distributors LLC, in Romeoville, Ill, has seen that evolution firsthand. “Compared to the past, eating occasions have drastically changed. More than half of all eating occasions are snacking,” she notes.

The “grazing effect,” as some have dubbed it, is affecting interest in smaller portions of frozen foods and in frozen snacks. According to a study conducted by Chicago-based market research firm Mintel in 2013, frozen snacks are purchased by 82 percent of households. In addition, 59 percent of consumers believe that frozen snacks are an affordable snack option, with 81 percent agreeing that such products are convenient for at-home eating.

While different-daypart foods are crossing over, frozen appetizers and snack rolls still comprise a core of frozen snack consumption. Sales of frozen appetizers and snack rolls are nearing $2 billion according to Mintel, and the subcategory includes a wide range of products that allow for even greater innovation.

Within frozen snacks, some types of products are making inroads as they dovetail with larger food trends. Strohbeck, for her part, cites the rise of healthy snacking: “People are eating smaller portions throughout the day, and healthier things, and that has changed our definition of snacking. We used to think of it as an indulgence,” she points out, citing better-for-you frozen snacks as diverse as organic muffins, vegetable pizzas and frozen Greek yogurt.

Retailers can merchandise healthy frozen snacks in a variety of ways to draw traffic to the center store, she adds. “Stores can create impulsive points of interruption, such as having grab-and-go freezers throughout the store with items like frozen soups or frozen burritos,” she suggests, adding that coupons are also effective in encouraging consumers to pick up frozen snacks.

Ethnic items are another area to watch within the snack segment of frozen foods. Mintel’s frozen snack report cited Dinuba, Calif.-based Ruiz Foods as an example of a successful frozen food manufacturer capitalizing on growing interest in convenient and ethnic-inspired snacks.

Underscoring that point, data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI shows that sales of many ethnic-style frozen snacks and appetizers have grown over the past year. For instance, sales of Asian-style PF Chang’s Home Menu snacks grew more than 5.26 percent in the 52 weeks ending Dec. 1, 2013, while Mexican-inspired snacks from Delimex, a brand of Pittsburgh-based Heinz, climbed 7.6 percent, and frozen appetizers from Hayward, Calif.-based José Ole rose 5.18 percent.

Finally, boding well for the future of this segment, the Mintel report on frozen snacks found that young consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 are especially interested in heat-and-eat snacks, followed by shoppers between the ages of 25 and 34 and ages 35 and 44.

“Stores can create impulsive points of interruption, such as having grab-and-go freezers throughout the store.”
—Katie Strohbeck, KeHE Distributors LLC

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