For some consumers, frozen foods may boast too much sodium, may contain too many “unhealthy” ingredients or may not be considered fresh enough.
But, thanks to some consumer education and industry-wide partnership in promoting the benefits of frozen foods, it seems as though shoppers are beginning to shed their phobia of frozen foods and instead rely on this category to feed their families in a time-starved, always-on-the-go environment.
Case in point: After several years of decline, the frozen foods industry is experiencing an uptick in sales, according to “The Power of Frozen 2019,” a study released by The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), Arlington, Va., and Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Arlington, Va.
That’s because many of today’s frozen food processors are revamping their ingredient profiles, updating their packaging and incorporating a more sustainable message, all to meet consumers’ ever-changing demands.
Here’s a rundown of some trends impacting growth in the frozen foods aisles:
Bold is better
The core frozen food shopper says they value taste, quality, variety and consistency, and are willing to be more adventurous with their palate and try new cuisines, according to AFFI’s and FMI’s report.
Likewise, processors are experimenting with bold flavors, ethnic cuisines and a fusion of sweet and savory.
Whether consumers are looking for vegan, ethnic, gluten-free, organic or antibiotic-free meat, the innovations are endless in the frozen foods aisles.
Sustainability is not just a fad—it’s here to stay, and is bringing consumers of all ages and demographics along for the ride.
From sustainable packaging to wastewater management to renewable building materials used in constructing a new plant, consumers are looking to support companies producing food in the most sustainable manner possible.
And, for many of today’s top CPGs, it’s not just about producing frozen foods—it’s about sustainable food initiatives, waste reduction programs, improved environmental practices, workplace safety, transparency and reusable packaging.
Consumers are even wanting to understand a company’s farm-to-fork process, including where the food came from, what it contains and more. Enter the sustainable supply chain. Mobile apps help shoppers understand the origin of a product, and learn more about the company’s sustainability messaging and initiatives.
Technology is taking the industry forward
Buzzwords like blockchain, Internet of Things, cloud-based, Industry 4.0, automation and artificial intelligence provide opportunities for today’s frozen food processors to move product from Point A to Point B in the most efficient way possible.
The industry is also implementing monitoring components such as telematics and telemetry devices, RFID devices, sensors and data loggers and networking devices designed to improve refrigerated storage, transportation performance and efficiency.
A growing need for connected trucks, high-cube refrigerated trailers and vehicles that facilitate cross-product transportation is likely to drive cold storage transportation services.
Automation remains the driving factor in generating growth. For example, the adoption of automated cranes enables operators to pile goods at greater heights.
Automated 3D shuttle pallet storage and retrieval systems have become a desirable solution for pallet movement and storage in deep-freeze warehouses.
New technologies such as high-speed doors, energy-efficient walls, automated cranes and cascade refrigeration systems also play a role in increasing efficiency.
E-commerce vs. brick-and-mortar
Frozen foods is one of the Top 10 items to purchase when buying groceries online, according to an article published on LifeHacker.com. That’s because frozen foods are difficult to mess up—they come packaged, branded and sealed, which means you don’t have to trust a delivery person or personal shopper to choose for you.
In fact, growth in subscription-based food delivery companies will play a major role in the transformation of the frozen food supply chain, as there’s a significant opportunity for frozen food brands to drive even more revenue online, according to a column penned by Michelle Cote, vice president of data and insights at MyWebGrocer. The report found that not only are consumers buying frozen foods online, but they’re also spending more on these items online than they are in store.
This proves that retailers have figured out how to co-exist and even partner with the e-commerce world in order to grow sales and still cater to the every consumer.
Furthermore, a new breed of retail stores and in-person experiences will begin to replace outgoing retailers who don’t embrace the marriage of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar, as outlined in a trends report by Absolutnet. Augmented reality, mobile checkout, image-based product searches are just some of the technologies in place to keep e-commerce and in-store shopping together.
What used to be a $122 billion market in 2013 is now projected to be a $156 billion industry in 2020, with frozen ready meals claiming a bulk of the market share. The resurgence of frozen foods is here, and many of today’s CPGs are in position to deliver bold, sustainable offerings on automated equipment and available in store and online.