In 2021, sales of refrigerated foods totaled over $83 billion, for a year-over-year growth of .3%, according to statistics by Nielsen and the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA). Those figures are compared to an unprecedented 13.3% YOY growth in 2020, which can largely be attributed to pandemic stockpiling and more product variety of refrigerated foods created by the increased use of high-pressure processing (HPP).
A recent survey found that nearly half of Americans are purchasing at least some of their groceries online, with most citing convenience as the main factor. COVID is continuing to reshape the way people shop, with more than a fifth (21%) of Americans responding that they expect to mostly or exclusively shop for groceries online within two years.
Another boost to the bottom line for cold foods processors was the continued success of meatless, plant-based and dairy-free options, as those categories graduated in 2020 from specialty items steadily growing in popularity, to becoming true competitors to the real thing in 2021.
Below is Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Top 25 Refrigerated Foods Processors Report, a list of the Top 5 companies in each category: Meat & Poultry; Dairy; Dips & Spreads; Fruits & Vegetables; and Entrées, Sides & Prepared Foods. This report represents Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ best efforts to reflect recent sales data based on annual reports, news releases, and statistics from our sister publications, Dairy Foods and National Provisioner, and other business media sources. Because most companies do not separate refrigerated sales from frozen (or even cold foods from shelf-stable) sales figures are all company-wide. If you work for a company on this list and know the approximate sales data of the refrigerated products your business produces, please contact me to update this page.
Meat & Poultry
Plant-based meat substitutes continued to see success in 2021, as more brands connected with shoppers in the refrigerated meat aisle where meatless alternatives can often be found alongside their authentic counterparts. Whole chicken eggs slipped by 4.3% to $6.1 billion last year, according to Nielsen/NFRA statistics.
Significant Events in 2021
- The world’s largest plant-based smokehouse opened in North Carolina.
- Aquamar Holdings, acquired Shining Ocean, Inc., which was previously a subsidiary of True World Group, a global conglomerate of seafood manufacturing and distribution.
- Préval AG acquired the assets of J&G Foods, a custom and specialty case-ready fresh meat provider specializing in portioned organic and grass-fed beef, chicken and a variety of marinated and value-added meats.
- Port of Oakland beef exports—almost exclusively to Asia—increased 25% between January and July, an extraordinary surge in a year when shipping disruptions hobbled global supply chains.
- Cargill and Continental Grain Company acquired Sanderson Farms, with plans to form a new, privately held poultry business.
Dairy-free products, like their meatless counterparts in the refrigerated foods category, continued to gain market share in 2021. Oat milk posted a whopping 68.3% increase in sales in 2021, with $407 million and non-dairy yogurt sold $353 million, an increase of 11.2%, according to Neilsen/NFRA statistics.
Coffee creamers continued to see new flavors, packaging, and co-branding efforts, as well as more dairy-free, plant-based alternatives using oat, hemp, and almond and soy milks. All told, the coffee creamer category sold $3.5 billion in 2021, an increase of 6.7%.
Retail sales of cow’s milk decreased 23.3% to nearly $12.2 billion. The market for dairy alternatives was valued at around $11.9 billion in 2017, and is estimated to be worth over $24 billion by 2025.
Significant Events in 2021
- Hälsa Dairy-Free Scandinavian-Style Oat Yogurt was named R&FF’s 2021 Best New Refrigerated Retail Product.
- Plant-Based Dairy Company Oddlygood Global Raised $28 million in initial funding.
- General Mills sold its European Yoplait yogurt operations.
- The KraftHeinz Company sold assets in its global cheese business and the license of trademarks to Groupe Lactalis for approximately $3.3 billion.
- Prairie Farms had more wins than any competing company at the 2021 World Dairy Expo Championship.
- Great Lakes Cheese broke ground on a $184.5M plant in Texas.
- Richard Graeter, CEO of Graeter’s Ice Cream was inducted into the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) Hall of Fame.
Dips & Spreads
High-pressure processing (HPP) continued to grow as companies looked for new ways to meet changing consumer tastes.
Significant Events in 2021
- Sabrosura Foods, LLC, a marketer and distributor of branded Hispanic food products, acquired Pancho's Mexican Foods.
- Devanco’s Zacca Hummus was named among the top five Best New Refrigerated Retail Products of 2021 winners.
Fruits & Vegetables
Refrigerated produce saw some company consolidation and a focus on sustainability and new technology.
Significant Events in 2021
- Sysco Acquired The Coastal Companies, a fresh produce distributor, from Continental Grain Company. The company operates as part of FreshPoint, Sysco’s specialty produce business.
- Revol Greens, North America’s largest greenhouse lettuce grower, acquired BJ’s Produce, to establish its first East Coast operation.
- Mission Produce opened the largest avocado ripening and processing facility in North America, a 262,000-square-foot plant in Laredo, Texas.
- Dole opened a 60,000-square-foot frozen fruit facility in Georgia.
Entrées, Sides & Prepared Foods
With many people continuing to work from home throughout 2021, convenience foods continued to see growth. Handheld refrigerated entrees like burritos, corn dogs, empanadas, quesadillas, tacos, tamales, and more, continued to see success in 2021, selling more than $273 million, up 19.5%, according to Nielsen/NFRA statistics.
Sales of refrigerated cookie dough skyrocketed during the early days of the pandemic as comfort food was in high demand. By the end of 2021, refrigerated cookie dough had slipped by 3.8% for a total of old $641 million, with chocolate chip cookie dough comprising $409 million of that total.
Significant Events in 2021
- St. Louis-based Louisa Foods, makers of filled pastas and appetizers, were named R&FF’s 2021 Frozen Foods Processor of the Year.
- US Foods rolled out nearly two dozen products aimed at Gen Z and Millennial tastes.
- Smucker’s announced plans to build a $1 billion manufacturing facility in Alabama for its Uncrustables brand.
- Tyson Foods announced a $300 million, 325,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art production facility in in Virginia to be used primarily for the production of fully cooked Tyson products like Any’tizer Snacks and Chicken Nuggets.
- J&J Snack Foods celebrated its 50th anniversary.
|Rank||Company Name||HQs||Top Executive||2020-2021 Sales||FY End||Refrigerated Dairy Products||Total Plants*|
|1||Nestlé, Zone Americas||Arlington, VA/North York, Ontario, Canada/Mexico City, Mexico||Laurent Freixe, CEO, Zone Americas||$33.7B||12/31/2021||Milk-based beverages and milk products, coffee creamers||114|
|2||Kraft Heinz Co.||Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA||Miguel Patricio, CEO||$26B||12/31/2021||Cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, cottage cheese||80|
|3||General Mills||Minneapolis, MN||Jeff Harmening, CEO & Chairman||$18.1B||5/31/2021||Yogurt||24|
|4||Saputo Inc.||Montreal, Québec, Canada||Lino Saputo, Jr., Chairman & CEO||$14.2B||3/31/21||Cheese, milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese||47|
|5||Conagra Brands||Chicago, IL||Sean Connolly, President & CEO||$11.1B||5/31/21||Whipped cream/topping, butter||50|
*Not all plants produce refrigerated dairy products.
|Rank||Company Name||HQs||Top Executive||2020-2021 Sales||FY End||Refrigerated Dips & Spreads Products||Total Plants*|
|1||Hormel Foods||Austin, MN||Jim Snee, Chairman, President & CEO||$11.4B||10/24/21||Dips, spreads||35|
|2||Reser's Fine Foods||Beaverton, OR||Mark Reser, President & CEO||$1.63B**||N/A||Dips, spreads||14|
|3||T. Marzetti Co.(1)||Westerville, OH||Dave Ciesinski, President & CEO||$1.5B||6/30/2021||Salad dressing, dips||14|
|4||Sabra Dipping Co.||White Plains, NY||Tomer Harpaz, CEO||$252M**||12/26/2021||Dips, spreads||1|
|5||Sandridge Food Corporation||Medinah, OH||Mark Sandridge, CEO||$223.6M||11/30/2020||Dips, spreads||2|
*Not all plants produce refrigerated dips and spreads. **FY 2021 not available at press time or company declined to confirm figures.
|Rank||Company Name||HQs||Top Executive||2020-2021 Sales||FY End||Refrigerated Fruits & Veg Products||Total Plants|
|1||Dole Food Co.||Westlake Village, CA||Johan Linden, President & CEO||$4.5B**||12/31/2021||Fresh-cut produce, packaged salads||5|
|2||Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc.||Coral Gables, FL||Mohammad Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman & CEO||$4.48B**||12/28/2021||Fresh-cut produce, packaged salads||24|
|3||Bonduelle Fresh Americas(2)||Irwindale, CA||Andrea Montagna, CEO||$3.5B**||6/30/2021||Fruits, vegetables, packaged salads||4|
|4||Chiquita Brands LLC(1)||Fort Lauderdale, FL||Carlos Lopez Flores, President||$3.6B**||12/31/2021||Fresh-cut produce, fruit snacks||5|
|5||Taylor Farms||Salinas, CA||Bruce Taylor, CEO||$3B**||12/31/2020||Fresh-cut produce, packaged salads||16|
*Not all plants produce refrigerated fruits and vegetables. **2021 FY not available at press time or company declined to confirm figures. (1)Unit of Cutrale-Safra Group. (2)Unit of Bonduelle.
|Rank||Company Name||HQs||Top Executive||2020-2021 Sales||FY End||Refrigerated Meat & Poultry Products||Total Plants*|
|1||Tyson Foods Inc.||Springdale, AR||Donnie D. King, President & CEO||$47B||10/3/2021||Poultry, beef, pork, processed meats||123|
|2||JBS USA(1)||Greeley, CO||Andre Nogueria, CEO||$34.9B||12/31/2021||Beef, pork, processed meats||50|
|3||Cargill Protein North America(2)||Wichita, KS||Hans Kabat, President||$20B**||5/31/21||Pork, poultry, processed meats||36|
|4||Smithfield Foods, Inc.(3)||Smithfield, VA||Shane Smith, President & CEO||$16B||12/29/21||Pork, processed meats||42|
|5||Hormel Foods Corp.||Austin, MN||Jim Snee, Chairman, President & CEO||$11.4B||10/25/2021||Beef, pork, poultry, processed meats||35|
(1)Unit of JBS S.A. (2)Unit of Cargill, Inc. (3)Unit of WH Group Ltd.. *Not all plants produce refrigerated meats. **2021 FY not available at press time or company declined to confirm figures.
|Rank||Company Name||HQs||Top Executive||2020-2021 Sales||FY End||Refrigerated Prepared Foods Products||Total Plants*|
|1||Kraft Heinz Co.||Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA||Miguel Patricio, CEO||$26B||12/31/21||Lunch combinations||80|
|2||General Mills||Minneapolis, MN||Jeff Harmening||$18.1B||5/31/21||Breakfast items||24|
|3||Hormel Foods Corp.||Austin, MN||Jim Snee, Chairman, President & CEO||$11.4B||10/25/21||Side dishes, sandwiches||35|
|4||Conagra Brands Inc.||Chicago, IL||Sean Connolly, President & CEO||$11B||5/31/20||Side dishes||50|
|5||Reser's Fine Foods Inc.||Beaverton, OR||Mark Reser, President & CEO||$1.63B**||N/A||Deli salads, side dishes, dips/spreads||14|
*Not all plants produce refrigerated prepared foods. **2021 FY not available at press time or company declined to confirm figures.