Frozen finally gains traction after years of struggling by playing up convenience, Acosta reveals

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Frozen final gains traction by playing up convenience, Acosta reveals

Related tags Convenience store Food preservation

After giving the frozen section the cold shoulder for years, consumers’ attitudes towards the category could be thawing out as manufacturers and retailers better tell the segment’s story around convenience, clean label and food waste reduction, new research from sales and marketing agency Acosta reveals.

Since 2013, sales in the frozen category have been flat due in part to a 5% drop in trips and purchases per year and an average price-hike of 8.2%, according to Acosta. But the segment’s fortunes appear to be changing with 26% of respondents to a recently conducted Acosta consumer survey revealing they shopped the frozen food department more frequently this year than last.

Millennials in particular are increasingly drawn to the frozen category with 43% reporting more frequent trips to the segment than a year ago. Slightly more than a quarter of Gen X consumers also said they are shopping frozen more, while only 19% and 20% of Boomers and Silents are exploring the aisles more, Acosta reports.

The report suggests that younger consumers who are notoriously strapped for time and may be juggling young families as well as aging adults and jobs are drawn to frozen food in large part because it offers fast meal solutions and a high level of convenience.

For support, it notes that 81% of Millennials say they value frozen food because they can find fast breakfast items for their children, 72% like convenient lunch options, 89% buy quick dinners and 78% grab side dishes.

A closer look at the findings reveals opportunities within each of these subsections, such as burritos, frittatas and bowls helping to drive up frozen breakfast sales 2%; alternatives grains boosting side dishes, which are up 8%; and so-called healthy ice creams that are driving an 8% increase in ice cream sales.

Another top reason that shoppers are reaching for frozen is because many view the options as being ‘cleaner.’ For example, Acosta found 76% of shoppers said antibiotic- and hormone-free were important factors that influenced their increase in frozen purchases. In addition, 73% of shoppers said they buy more frozen because it is all natural, 71% said sustainable and 69% said it offered low sodium options.

Finally, a desire to reduce food waste factored into why 32% of consumers purchased more frozen foods versus fresh foods that spoil more quickly, Acosta’s survey reveals.

Fighting fresh

Despite these strides, frozen still has some significant hurdles to overcome to entice more shoppers – the biggest of which is a perception by some that fresh is healthier than frozen.

According to Acosta, 68% of those surveyed in it’s the Future of Frozen report said they perceive fresh as healthier than frozen. Many also say they buy natural and organic because they feel it is better for them – an angle that Acosta suggest manufacturers and retailers could work if they played up this attributes in the frozen aisle.

One way to do this is to position these and other healthy and better-for-you options in the end-caps of the freezer section as a tease to what else might be down the aisle, Colin Stewart, senior vice president at Acosta, suggested in a statement.

He also recommends retailers boost frozen sales by ensuring the frozen aisles are easy to navigate and offer a wide-variety of options so that the area is more easily understood as a one-stop shopping spot for all their needs. 

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