Report: Frozen Food sales to remain strong post-COVID 19

21 May 2020

March represented the peak for all frozen food sales in the U.S. with dollar figures rocketing 94% above the levels for the same time last year. However, things cooled off in April where volume sales were 30% to 35% above the same period last year. Overall, 86% of consumers have bought frozen food items since early March.

Just as pantry staples have experienced a surge in sales, so too have frozen foods with 70% of consumers reporting an increase in their frozen food purchases since March, according to a new survey from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI). In addition to those who regularly buy frozen goods, 7% of those surveyed said they are new to the category and previously rarely or never bought frozen products.

Report: Frozen Food sales to remain strong post-COVID 19

Consumers listed the pandemic as the primary catalyst for this increase in reliance on frozen food. The top reasons behind the growth in this segment are the long shelf-life of the products (60%), consumer desire to stock up in case of food shortages (58%), the ability for frozen food to limit trips to the grocery store (51%) and the ease of preparation (46%). Still, 12% of consumers said they had recently been ramping up their frozen food purchases regardless of the pandemic.

Indeed, frozen food sales have been growing for years as the negative perceptions about the quality and health of these products have melted away. Due to recent investments in frozen products, sales in this segment began to outpace total store and perimeter sales in 2017. That divide increased last year when frozen food sales grew 2.6%. Total store sales increased 1.7% and fresh sales rose 1.4% during the same time period, according to Grocery Dive. Compare that to 2014 when the perimeter of the grocery store saw sales that were five times that of the frozen section.

Now that gap may be widening further with the impacts of coronavirus on consumer shopping behavior. The AFFI survey noted that the most frequently purchased categories were frozen vegetables, meat and pizza. However, the categories with the largest growth were frozen meat (101%), frozen snacks (82.3%) and frozen beverages (94.6% ). This indicates that frozen food is not just supplementing meals, but it is also providing a convenience for consumers that are not always able to order food from restaurants.

The survey also indicated that the future of frozen foods is bright. Of those who have purchased frozen foods since the onset of COVID-19, 18% expect that they will purchase “a lot more” and 32% said they anticipate buying “somewhat more.” And those who will be buying more are consumers who are not traditionally big frozen food purchasers. Gen Z consumers, high-earning millennial households with children and families in urban zip codes are among the groups identified as future frozen food aficionados.

Read the AFFI survey

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