The frozen food industry has seen steady growth since COVID-19 began, as people gravitate towards foods with longer shelf lives.
“United States based frozen food sales increased 18.2 percent in 2020, ringing up US$66 billion in sales,” American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) President and CEO Alison Bodor tells Food Tank. She says that seven percent of consumers who rarely or never purchased frozen foods pre-pandemic are now doing so.
Decreasing grocery store visits and preparing for potential food shortages motivates U.S. consumers to shop frozen during the pandemic, according to a November 2020 AFFI report. Frozen foods also appeal to consumers looking to avoid cooking when they cannot visit restaurants.
And rather than plateau, global demand for frozen foods is projected to grow through 2027, a Grand View Research 2020 Market Analysis Report finds.
Supply chains have shifted production away from food service and into the retail sector. Bodor tells Food Tank, “Frozen food destined for foodservice is generally shipped in larger packages compared to food that is destined for retail.”
Both large and small manufacturers saw increased sales last year, but changes in packaging and distribution methods have benefitted larger corporations. “Larger companies also had an easier time adjusting their production lines to increase production of foods in high demand,” Bodor says.
The United Kingdom based food distributor, Reed Boardall,will complete a 10,220 square meter cold store extension project to keep up with supply chain expansions in the industry. The facility’s completion is projected for March 2021.
Increasingly efficient supply chains are also supporting this trend. According to the Frozen Food Market – Forecast(2020-2025), the necessity of frozen foods to be kept at -18°C has spurred technological innovation. New transport trucks are fitted with GPS tracking and more accurate temperature monitoring to reduce wasted food products.
But COVID-19 is not the only factor driving these trends. According to AFFI, health-conscious Americans began gravitating towards vegetarian dishes and nutritious meals from the frozen food aisle even before the pandemic. Companies such as Amy’s Kitchen have helped lead this shift for two decades, adding gluten free options in 2001 and coining National Veggie Burger day in 2016.
A Wabel report shows that during the 2012-2017 five year market decline, vegan frozen foods were growing at 18.5 percent. Since 2018, the entire frozen food market has grown consistently.
“These new consumers include Gen Z buyers, as well as Baby Boomers who left the category during the TV dinner era—returning to find newer, healthier, tastier options,” Bodor tells Food Tank. Suppliers are responding to these buying trends, offering an increasing number of healthy frozen food options.
Comfort food companies such as Cinnabon and plant based retailers such as the meal kit company, Purple Carrot, are taking advantage of industry growth. Food Business News reports that Cinnabon released a breakfast line and Purple Carrot entered the retail market in 2020 with four plant based meals for consumers.
This year, Wicked Foods, a UK based vegan frozen food company, is debuting in the U.S. Offering over 80 vegan products, the company’s products have seen success since their Tesco debut in 2018. The company will begin selling in the U.S. this summer.
Bodor tells Food Tank, “The frozen food industry will need to develop additional flexibilities into the supply chain to allow for greater movement between end markets and to better withstand short term changes in demand.”