Frozen food remains a hot category in the US28 Jan 2022
Even as supply chain constraints cool off and shopper purchasing patterns shift from what they were at the height of the pandemic, frozen food remains a category that is still benefitting from the renaissance it underwent in the past two years.
Going forward, Adnan Durrani, the founder of the ethnic frozen food brand Saffron Road, said in an opinion piece published by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) that ethnic flavors will be what helps the category continue to maintain its growth momentum in 2022.
An aisle that was once the domain of stodgy food options and highly-processed fare has undergone a transformation in recent years as labels like antibiotic-free, grass-fed and non-GMO have begun to grace the front of frozen packages. This update for formulations and packaging was coupled with the surge in demand ignited by the pandemic that led to frozen category sales soaring 23% or 200% above fresh food sales, according to a Deloitte study. Over the course of 2020, nearly all segments of frozen food saw double-digit sales increases, but seafood, poultry and appetizers saw the largest overall growth.
“The frozen food aisle has been a growth driver for retailers since 2016 with acceleration ahead of most other departments,” said AFFI President and CEO Alison Bodor in a statement on the trends seen over the course of 2020. “Frozen foods are a pandemic powerhouse ringing in $65.1 billion in retail sales in 2020, a 21% increase compared to a year ago.”
A large driving force behind this increase was the entrance of new customers into the space. And, according to Durrani, the category is still attracting interest from shoppers that have not previously relied on frozen options. “An unprecedented 30% of our growth over the last year (2021) has come from new-to-brand consumers and 70% of growth is from current consumers doubling or tripling their purchases,” he said in the opinion piece.
These new shoppers — which Durrani cites that his company’s data is finding to be mainly Millennials —are searching for better-for-you than fresh options that boast authentic flavors and innovative formulations. Flavors that are currently driving sales are Asian and Indian flavors, but Durrani says, “I anticipate we’ll start seeing more in Mediterranean, South American, Peruvian and Vietnamese cuisines, further helping to grow the category in years to come.”
To maximize success in the segment, both emerging and established brands will need to listen to the consumer and deliver options that cater to the trends, which are continually evolving. According to data from the AFFi, 58% of shoppers are purchasing different kinds of frozen foods while 57% are buying brands that they did not shop for prior to the pandemic. Adaptability, says Durrani, will be key.
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