The frozen food market has proven to be largely resilient in the face of both fresh food and meal kit trends. Sales have been steady, if unspectacular, since 2012, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in a new report, “Frozen Foods in the U.S.: Hot Meals, Sides, and Snacks, 6th Edition.” Packaged Facts estimates that frozen food products in the collective categories of dinners/entrées, pizza, side dishes, and appetizers/snacks had overall sales of $22 billion in 2016, nearly identical to the sales total four years prior.
Packaged Facts estimates that frozen vegetables are used in three out of four U.S. households, and 60 percent use frozen potatoes. Just more than 60 percent are frozen pizza consumers, with dinners as well as entrées used in about 40 to 45 percent of households. Likewise, more than a third of U.S. households are consumers of frozen snacks. Most encouragingly, Packaged Facts’ survey data reveal that 90 percent of consumers buy packaged frozen hot meal items for heating or microwaving at home, a share that is up substantially—15 percentage points—in just two years.
While convenience may be thought of as the driving factor in purchase of frozen foods, quality and healthfulness are of paramount importance, reflecting the recent reformulating and repositioning of leading brands and the growing presence of emerging brands that emphasize these qualities. This points to frozen food manufacturers’ willingness to face the thriving fresh food market head-on by making the necessary formulation and marketing adjustments to remain competitively relevant. In addition, convenience may play a less decisive role than might be expected, as consumers simply assume that this is a feature automatically associated with frozen meal items.
Looking ahead, Packaged Facts expects leading positive factors to include marketers’ continued robust investment in product innovation, with rollouts supported by strong marketing and advertising initiatives.
“Bold and unique flavors; varieties inspired by world cuisines; cleaner labels and healthier nutrition profiles; and products that accommodate special dietary concerns will drive purchases,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts.