According to Conagra Brands’ recent report, frozen foods have unique appeal across all generations.
The frozen food market remains on solid footing, building on the pandemic-era momentum of preparing and eating more foods at home. Indeed, the sector is coming off another strong year: The 2023 “Power of Frozen in Retail” report released last October by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and FMI – The Food Industry Association, showed that yearly frozen food sales topped $74.2 billion and revealed that 94% of consumers will buy the same or more frozen items in the coming months.
Chicago-based frozen food manufacturer Conagra Brands recently released its own first-of-its-kind report on the topic, affirming the ongoing demand for and use of frozen food. “Frozen food is an enormous category, and the U.S. is somewhat unique – it’s four times more developed than other countries. Frozen foods have unique appeal across all generations and frozen food covers everything from prepared foods to ingredients,” said Bob Nolan, SVP of demand science at Conagra Brands, during a recent webinar on the report’s findings. Additionally, he noted, consumers can cut down on food waste by opting for frozen foods that have a longer shelf life than fresh foods.
[Read more: “Why CPGs Are Looking Beyond Pricing”]
Conagra’s “Future of Frozen Food 2024” report was based on data from NielsenIQ and other research sources and an analysis of more than 120 million social media conversations. According to Nolan, the company leveraged its demand science team to gain a deeper look into opportunities and behaviors.
The company’s analysts identified five top trends that they believe will shape demand in the year ahead:
- A Taste of Global Cuisine: Conagra’s insights show that consumers are being influenced by their exposure to more global flavors, such as Indian, Cajun and Korean BBQ fare. “Consumers for years have been expanding their palates to more global cuisines and profiles, but it’s all about what’s hot now that’s driving trends in global cuisines,” said Megan Bullock, director, strategic insights, emerging demand, at Conagra Brands, citing the popularity of dishes like Asian appetizers. “We’ve also seen expansion of hot and spicy food in frozen.”
- Frozen Foods Rising and Shining at Breakfast: According to Conagra, items like frozen croissant sandwiches, breakfast burritos and biscuit sandwiches are driving growth in this segment and reflect the all-day popularity of breakfast items. “We are seeing a lot of modern attributes like high protein, gluten-free and carb-conscious, too,” added Bullock.
- Big Appetites for Bites and Mini Portions: Consumers’ penchant for noshing on snacks, along with their interest in portion control and quick satisfaction, are contributing to this trend. “There are a multitude of motivations and benefits. It’s also about convenience, shareability and enjoyment,” Bullock pointed out during the webinar.
- Fun and Convenient Kids Meals: Kid-friendly frozen food now generates more than $248 million in annual sales, Conagra reports. Beyond convenience, taste and variety, families buy frozen foods to help control food budgets and reduce food waste. Added Nolan: “The last thing a parent wants after a long day is to fight over dinner.”
- The Air Fryer’s Influence on Food Prep: Air fryers remain a literal and figurative hot trend, with the number of frozen foods with air-frying instructions leaping 90% over the past four years. That trend will keep surging, the researchers predict.