Frozen snack market needs warming up, report

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Marketing Innovation

Makers of frozen snacks need to focus on health and innovation in
order to boost slowing sales, according to a new report by Mintel.

Although this category is well established and has already achieved good penetration in US households, the changing lifestyles of many Americans has caused sales to slow over the past year. The market (excluding Wal-Mart) is currently worth around $2.2m, with sales in 2006 rising just 0.7 percent. In constant terms, this figure actually translates into a decline of nearly two percent, a stark contrast to the strong sales growth seen over the previous five years. According to Mintel's new report, entitled Frozen Snacks - US - October 2007​, the market has been challenged by a slower rate of new product innovation and Americans' efforts to eat healthier. "Players in this space will want to take steps to appeal to a wider audience while continuing to engage consumers dedicated to the category,"​ it says. Opportunities involve targeting children and older generations with more healthful products. These are likely to appeal both to moms re-evaluating their children's diets, and to ageing consumers who tend to avoid frozen snack products due to high levels of fat and calories. Indeed, the quest for health has long taken a grip over food development efforts, and the frozen snack sector is no exception. Last year already saw the introduction of a number of products with some form of health positioning, including no trans fats, high levels of whole grains, or even natural and organic versions. But according to Mintel, "more can - and should - be done in the area of healthier frozen snacks. Manufacturers should consider offering items such as mini burritos with whole wheat crusts, 100-calorie hot pretzels and/or cheese sticks for kids and teens that are reduced fat or that have 'extra calcium for growing bodies'". ​Innovation is another area to aim for, with suggestions including new twists on old flavors, such as those seen in the hard pretzel sector (e.g. pumpernickel, hot buffalo wing and honey mustard flavors). Other fields of exploration could be wrapping hand held snacks in crepes, or giving them a falafel crust, as well as combining familiar cuisines, such as southwestern-style egg roles or BBQ chicken pizza. The US frozen snack market is dominated by food giant Nestlé, which hold almost one third of the market share with brands including Hot Pockets, Lean Pockets and Stouffer's. New product developments have helped Nestlé grow its frozen snack sales nearly 32 percent between 2004 and 2006. Ruiz Foods, a much smaller player in the frozen snacks arena, has a 6.3 percent share of the market. Sales increases of 22.5 percent from 2004-06 were greatly supported by the growing number of Hispanics in the US, with 42 percent of Hispanic frozen snack eaters saying they use the Ruiz brand Taquitos, a figure that compares to 21 percent of the total. Overall, just under half (46 percent) of US consumers report using frozen snacks, with households with children and black households being more likely to opt for these products. Mintel forecasts that sales of frozen snacks (excluding Wal-Mart) will reach $2.6bn by 2012. This represents an 18 percent increase over 2007 sales in current terms and a 4 percent increase in constant terms. "Unexpected innovations in terms of healthier options, more portable options, and more interesting flavors/restaurant-like products would make sales higher than anticipated,"​ said the report.

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