From free pizzas with the purchase of a new freezer to promoting eggs through farmer-focused dating sites, the marketing, messaging and branding around refrigerated and frozen foods is as creative as ever.

“Everything on consumer behavior has changed and therefore brands ad manufacturers need to adjust,” said Shannon Maher, who was hired earlier this year as the first chief marketing officer at Good Foods, a manufacturer of all-natural products including guacamoles, dips, salads and dressings. “It’s really important for us to know the consumer and the customers. We need to make sure that we know what our retailers – who is our customer – what they’re wanting, and what the consumer wants. The marketer shouldn’t focus solely on the consumer, they need to know what the customer is looking for too, because that’s how we better serve everyone,” Maher said.

Knowing their core customer led Good Foods earlier this year to debut an allergen-friendly chip dip, free of the “top nine” most problematic ingredients. It has also led to the success of their grab-and-go snack packs, a finalist in R&FF’s 2023 Best New Retail Products contest. “Consumers are increasingly looking for value. It’s not just the price point, but in thinking about the value, it’s how are they using the product; is it a snack that they can also cook with? Is it something they can eat, but also feed to their kids? Is it high-quality ingredients? Is it convenience? Value manifests itself in so many different ways that it’s up to retailers and brands to provide that to consumers,” Maher said.

The Stouffer’s Comfort Calendar
The Stouffer’s Comfort Calendar is designed to help with dinner dread. Courtesy Stouffer’s

Some of the most memorable marketing this year included:

  • Stouffer’s introduced a Comfort Calendar, a frozen-food spinoff of an Advent calendar, with seven dishes including a family-size macaroni & cheese and lasagna, all in reusable gingerbread house box. The calendar was available for online ordering for $39.99.
  • Jimmy Dean turned breakfast ads into brainteasers, with advertisements in the D.C. metro area and online containing misspellings. Consumers were asked to “spell check” the company in an effort to win prizes and celebrate the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Reser’s Fine Foods this summer held a “Good Times Tour,” visiting 10 festivals to sample their refrigerated deli salads and sides like Deviled Egg Potato Salad and Original Macaroni Salad alongside yard games and a chance to win prizes including a smoker and Reser’s food.
  • Just Crack an Egg partnered with dating site,, giving a free one-year subscription to the site to consumers who purchased the microwavable breakfast scrambles. The Kraft Heinz brand said it was giving “egg lovers the opportunity to meet a farmer and in return get fresh and affordable eggs.”
  • Chicago’s Home Run Inn offered a free frozen pizza to anyone who purchased a freezer during March 2023, in celebration of National Frozen Foods Month.

The National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA), an all-industry trade association, representing the interests of every segment of the frozen and refrigerated foods industry, sponsors January ReDiscover Dairy & Frozen, March National Frozen Food Month, June Dairy Month and Summer Favorites Ice Cream and Novelties promotions, plus two national consumer PR campaigns: Real Food. Frozen and Dairy … and Beyond.

NFRA recognizes top marketers every year at their annual convention in October and says technology is changing how food brands interact with consumers.

Good Foods’ new chip dip
Good Foods’ new chip dip is allergen friendly. Courtesy Good Foods Group

“AI is used for personalized marketing, the metaverse for immersive experiences, and AR/VR for interactive experiences. Consumers demand personalized and engaging experiences, and brands using technology to provide valuable information and services are more likely to be trusted and succeed,” said Tricia Greyshock, NFRA executive vice president and COO. “Technology is also playing an increasingly important role in our national March Frozen Food Month and June Dairy Month promotions. We're using social media, influencer marketing, and online advertising to reach target audiences with personalized messages and engaging content. These programs are leveraging shoppable video and mobile elements, such as add-to-list and add-to-cart activations, to enhance the shopper experience, drive sales, and gain a deeper understanding of our target audiences.”

Recent NFRA research shows trends in the refrigerated and frozen space are not much different from those of the larger food landscape: health and wellness, convenience and sustainability. Food companies are responding in a variety of ways, like using sustainable packaging materials, sourcing ingredients locally and emphasizing the nutritional benefits of their offerings.

Promotional logos
The National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association markets the industry with specialized promotions throughout the year. Courtesy NFRA.

“The frozen and refrigerated foods space is constantly changing, so keeping up to date on the latest trends in marketing and branding is key to remaining competitive,” said LeeAnn Smulligan, director of Marketing at Mrs. T’s Pierogies and a member of the NFRA Promotions Committee. “Consumers continue to look for food options that provide them solutions and meet their lifestyle needs. In response, brands should stay true to their foundations and emphasize the benefits of their offerings. Continue to execute against what is important to your consumer whether that is sustainability, wellness, or convenience.”

Crack An Egg campaign
As a creative play around rising egg prices, the breakfast brand collaborated with a farmer-focused dating site this spring to help egg lovers connect with farmers. Courtesy Kraft Heinz

In the competitive cold foods market, smart merchandising is still key to influencing customer choices and boosting sales.

Good Foods conducts “shop-alongs” to see how people are navigating the store and is mindful of the online experience consumers may have shopping digitally, Maher said.

“Whether it’s the digital shelf or the actual shelf, visibility is still key. Merchandising is that first interaction that shoppers have with a brand. So making sure first, making sure you’re in the right set and it’s in the places consumers would think to look and where they expect it to be,” she said. “That good old-fashioned talking to the consumer isn’t going away. It’s about finding a balance between all the different types of research methodologies.”