Navigating the Frozen Food Aisles

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Navigating the Frozen Food Aisles

By Karen Buch, RDN, LDN - 04/21/2020
Navigating the Frozen Aisles

Nearly all U.S. households purchase some frozen foods, making for a significant retail department, topping $57 billion in sales. Today’s shoppers choose frozen foods because of their time-saving convenience, ease of trial and ability to satisfy cravings. Some 30% of consumers plan to cook at home more often, creating the opportunity for frozen foods to compete with fresh and prepared foods and subscription meal kits.

Increasingly, frozen food manufacturers are adding nutritional attribute callouts, formulating plant-based alternatives to traditional favorites and offering ethnic cuisine with global flavors.

A broad array of innovative frozen meal solutions offers simpler, more natural ingredients focused on quality sourcing and sustainability practices while helping to eliminate labor-intense steps to meal preparation.

Dinners and Entrées

With greater than 80% household penetration, the dinner and entrée segment leads the way in frozen sales, at $9.2 billion. Eating trends over the past 20 years show a 68% rise in home meals that include a frozen dinner or entrée prepared in the oven, microwave or pressure cooker. Frozen entrées provide families an opportunity to share wholesome, nutritious, budget-friendly meals that meet individual lifestyle needs.

Fruits and Vegetables    

Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen within hours of harvest to lock in key vitamins and minerals and preserve taste. Today’s consumers can blend frozen fruits into smoothies; serve flavorful vegetable-based side dishes such as veggie soufflés, riced cauliflower, spiralized beets, zucchini and squash, or grilled-, marinated- and roasted-vegetable medleys; and choose such alternatives to traditional potato-based favorites as veggie-based hash browns, tots, fries and gnocchi.

Grains

Frozen par-cooked versions of whole and ancient grains that reduce prep time compared with traditional cooking methods include steel-cut oats, quinoa, farro and brown rice. Consumers can also find whole and sprouted grains in frozen power bowls, waffles, breads and muffins.

Proteins

Meat, Poultry, Seafood: Solutions-based, value-added frozen meat and seafood products are gaining sales, from Buffalo-style chicken meatballs to raw, deveined, tails-removed, pre-seasoned shrimp ready to grill, broil or sauté to make specific meals like scampi. Frequently, meat packages call out such claims as organic, humanely raised without antibiotics and added hormones, kosher, halal, Paleo, or keto, while frozen seafood packages tout quality, traceability, sourcing, wild-caught and sustainable fishery practices.

Plant-Based Alternatives: Meatless burgers, brats and sausages are surging along with the plant-forward trend. Some proudly flaunt unique vegetable and grain content, while others focus instead on mimicking the look and taste of meat-containing versions. Specialty plant-based sausages move beyond “Italian” with new habanero cheddar, Asian ginger scallion, chorizo or maple blueberry varieties.

Pizza

Pizza represents $5 billion in frozen sales. Expanded options for unique pizza toppings and the introduction of vegetable-based pizza crusts (made with cauliflower, chickpeas or broccoli, for example) are redefining the frozen pizza category.

Holiday Specialty

Frozen foods help ease holiday food preparation. Oven-ready versions of traditionally scratch-prepared side dishes include savory herb-and-cornbread stuffing, sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole.

Ice Cream

Ice cream, purchased by 86% of households, is a $6 billion market. While sales of whole-fat ice cream continue to rise, portion-controlled indulgences and novelties continue to tempt consumers. In a sign of the times, Ben and Jerry’s is launching its Netfix and Chill’d variety in both dairy and nondairy versions to appeal to vegan and nonvegan segments of the binge-watching public.