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ChaseDesign Retail Report #6: Frozen Food Is Heating Up

Masked Woman in Frozen Food Aisle

While many industries are struggling amid the ongoing pandemic and recession, grocery is experiencing a radical rebirth. According to the New York Times, the week that the state of emergency was first declared, grocery experienced 79% growth. We’re continuing to see meaningful growth thanks in part to the fact that people are staying in for 1-2 more meals a day, resulting in the increasing popularity of at-home meals. And there’s one department that’s at the top of everyone’s grocery list: frozen foods.

According to a study by IRI and BCG, frozen foods were the top-selling edible grocery category across the U.S., U.K., France, and Italy from the beginning of the year until mid-May. Why are shoppers showing a preference for frozen foods and what can we expect moving forward?

Shoppers Stocking Up on Frozen

Even now that the panic buying is out of our systems, most shoppers are going to the grocery store less frequently and their cart size is increasing. According to Statista, more than half of grocery shoppers have been stockpiling food during the pandemic with 54% buying enough food to last 2 weeks and 19% buying enough for 3-4 weeks. The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) shows that when people first started stocking up in mid-March, the category’s sales increased 94% versus the previous year and then continued strong at 30-35% year-over-year. In fact, 7% of consumers that rarely or never purchased frozen foods pre-pandemic are now buying them. This presents a huge opportunity to reach an entirely new group of people shopping the category.

Frozen Foods Creating Feelings of Safety

While stocking up is one reason to buy frozen, some shoppers also see it as a safer option. According to the AFFI and 210 Analytics study, 33% believe frozen foods are safer to shop and consume than fresh foods that are out in the open at stores. Shoppers are trying to purchase foods that are handled minimally along the supply chain, and there’s an assumption that foods that are packaged and frozen are sealed off from human touch once they leave the factory.

Convenient, Healthy Options Growing Frozen

With single-person households growing and many Baby Boomers cooking for only one or two people, frozen options are a convenient and easy way to make healthy meals. Healthy options in the category are driving major growth with all-natural brands like Amy’s Kitchen, Kashi, and Evol, along with gluten-free brands like Udi’s, becoming more mainstream.  According to Supermarket News, products with “free-from” claims currently account for 14.8% of department sales.

Shoppers Seeking Treats for Comfort

Comfort is also a top priority. Consumers have been turning toward comfort foods during this stressful time, including ice cream and frozen novelties. According to Mintel, 65% of people state that they’re stressed over the pandemic, 51% say they turn to eating for comfort, and 71% enjoy eating food that reminds them of childhood and brings nostalgia. With not every ice cream stand opening and fully operating, the trend of purchasing frozen treats will likely continue over the coming months.

Continuing the Growth of Frozen Foods

COVID-driven trends, population shifts, and considerable innovation have created the conditions for growth in frozen foods. But what will it take for brands and their retail partners to make the most of the opportunities?

  • Significant innovation and evolution in the category have led to a more complex deselection and shopping experience. Now is the time to create more intuitive pathways into the category and differentiate key segments for both new and lapsed shoppers.
  • Millennials and Gen Z seek more natural, “free from” options, and marketers have done well to deliver innovations here. However, existing category layouts weren’t built for this newer set of products. Re-examine, re-think, and re-create to reach potential.
  • While the frozen category is increasingly available with click and collect, shoppers have been slow to adopt/trust here—so frozen foods have become a trip driver. The implications are substantial, but are you treating the category in this new way?
  • Who looks to frozen for food trends? No one. Why not? The category has the opportunity to be much more forward-leaning in food discovery. This is a natural penetration-driving technique, and for today’s frozen, it’s doable. It just might require a dedicated section and different approach.

 

Frozen foods have changed dramatically in the past five years. If your bottom line relies on growth in frozen, our team at ChaseDesign can help find the right path forward. Contact Peter Cloutier at pcloutier@chasedesign.net.