Millennials take a fresh look at frozen: Inside an unlikely comeback

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17 May 2018 --- Frozen foods are making a comeback and millennials are largely responsible for this, spending 9 percent more per shopping trip for frozen foods last year than other groups, according to an RBC Capital Markets report. Reuters quote David Palmer, an analyst at the firm noting that sales volumes have grown for the first time in five years and it’s the convenience of frozen foods that are driving sales in the space.

Millennials, who are tipped as a “foodie generation,” are increasingly purchasing frozen foods and the growth of veganism has also helped boost sales of frozen goods, with people spending increasing amounts of money on products such as meat-free burgers and sausages. With BBQ season just beginning and consumers working more hours and having less time to eat, frozen foods are becoming the go-to option.
Meat, fish and eggs are the leading products in the frozen aisle, according to Innova Market Insights. And fruits and vegetables have experienced the most growth in the space, with 4 percent growth monitored in 2017 compared to 2013.
 
A product analysis found that vitamin, antioxidant and other nutrient-related claim penetration is significantly higher for frozen vegetables compared to fruit and vegetables in cans and jars, dried and fresh fruit and vegetables. “Fresh” claims appeared on 19.1 percent of new frozen fruit and vegetable products, while 14.3 percent of this category of products featured vitamin, antioxidant and nutrient-related claims.
According to a Bloomberg report, the recent uptick in popularity stems in part from a record-high level of single Americans as millennials wait to form families. Frozen meals are an easy way to control portions, and there’s typically very little waste, a topic of which is an important case in the food industry today.
Innova Market Insights tipped “A Fresh Look at Frozen” as trend #8 back in 2015 and in order to compete with the healthy appeal of fresh aisles and the convenience of canned foods. The market researcher noted how established frozen foods (vegetables and seafood) are focusing on freshness in their marketing, stressing the superior nutritional content in frozen food. Now the trend is truly bearing fruition.
 
Brand extensions include wider varieties of vegetables and fruits. At the same time, the frozen segment is witnessing new product launch activity in new categories (e.g., soups, fruit, drinks, finger foods, sauces, pastries and herbs).
 
The interesting recent rise in frozen foods innovation is partly being driven by its emergence in new market categories, where it functions for natural preservation and convenience.
The unimaginative and budget image of the frozen supermarket section is a thing of the past, with innovative new offerings reinvigorating the frozen food aisle. Frozen food manufacturers are proactively promoting the benefits of fast-freezing produce in retaining nutritional values and argue that frozen is better than fresh.
 
More premium, frozen ready meals available on-hand from the freezer at home represents a significant market opportunity for today’s consumers with extremely busy lifestyles.
 
This demand for fresh items is being seized upon by manufacturers of frozen fruits & vegetables, who are positioning their products as being “as good as fresh.” Frozen food manufacturers are proactively promoting how the fast-freezing process retains the nutritional values of fresh produce, arguing that the nutritional values in frozen foods are superior to those in the fresh aisles.
Convenience is key in frozen ready meals, with one in two frozen ready meals featuring time-saving claims, appealing to a busy generation of consumers and fiber inclusion is also gaining traction.
 
In the UK, Marks & Spencer and Tesco are becoming pioneers of the chilled ready meal market, with new ranges being launched that are said to offer “restaurant quality” dishes and complements the retailer’s range of fresh ready meals. M&S reports: “We see a significant market opportunity in prepared frozen meals” as “ever busier lifestyles mean that having a prepared meal ready to go in the freezer can be a big help for busy families.”
 
Research certainly suggests that this trend is bearing fruition and that looking forward we can expect this category to grow even further.
 
By Elizabeth Green

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