Frozen food remains a hot commodity as pandemic endures

6 Jan 2021

Frozen food sales continue to outpace the growth of all food items in the grocery store, according to data from IRI and the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA). Total sales of frozen products rose 17.4% from November 2019 to November 2020, with the largest gains of more than 27% posted by the processed poultry, seafood, snacks and beverage categories.

Overall food sales rose 9.3% during the same timeframe while sales of fresh products gained a comparatively conservative 7.8%. Remarkably, sales of frozen meat except for poultry and seafood were down 10% in November even though the category posted a 21.5% growth in dollar sales.

Frozen food remains a hot commodity as pandemic endures
Image via Devin Rajaram on Unsplash

These data indicate that pricing strategies for frozen products have evolved with the growing demand for these center aisle options. A survey done in the spring by the American Frozen Food Institute found that sales within frozen food jumped 70% between March and April, and the demand has waned little since then. Propelled by the popularity of these products, retailers inflated their pricing strategy for in-demand offerings, resulting in the large gap between recorded volume sales and the corresponding dollar sales.

As cases of coronavirus rose in December following a decline during the summer months, the number of people consuming meals at home continued to be high. In a September report released prior to the most recent spike, by sales and marketing agency Acosta, 55% of consumers are eating at home more frequently since the pandemic began.

To assist with daily meal prep, frozen food has become an indispensable addition to many family freezers due to its convenience as well as the fact that it is often an economical choice for shoppers looking to stretch their incomes further. The growth in sales is also helped along by the fact that long-held associations with frozen products being less healthy and tasty are thawing.

Major frozen food producers like Nestlé, Conagra Brands and B&G Foods have spent the last several years investing heavily in making over their frozen food lines into appealing offerings that resonate with modern consumers that are looking for clean labels and healthy ingredients. The result of these efforts is evident in the gains posted by companies across the spectrum that are selling frozen products.

While long term these gains may not stay in the double digits, the growth garnered today may have lasting effects such as establishing frozen food as a vital addition to a healthy portfolio for food and beverage companies that are looking to recuperate following the difficulties caused by the pandemic.

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