Global flavors, convenience and on-the-go options, focus on nutrition and portions and the influence of new home appliances, like air fryers, all will guide the development, manufacturing and distribution of frozen foods over the coming years.

With the majority of consumers wanting prep time of 15 minutes or less, “assisted scratch cooking” will become increasingly important for Gen Z and younger, Burke Raine, president of Refrigerated and Frozen at Conagra Brands, told attendees last month at Frozen IQ, presented by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and FMI.

Conagra earlier this year released the “Future of Frozen Foods,” a first-of-its kind report from the food giant, in partnership with sales data from NielsenIQ, in-home consumption behaviors from Circana's National Eating Trends, and social media trend predictors from Black Swan Data. The 23-page report identified five key areas in which manufacturers, processors, suppliers and retailers can find success in the $78 billion U.S. frozen food market.

Quick breakfasts, handheld options, kid’s meals and diverse cuisines were among the ways frozen processors and manufacturers can win over budget-conscious consumers increasingly looking for restaurant experiences at home, where about 80% of meals are consumed, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, global EVP & chief advisor, Consumer Goods & Foodservice Insights at Circana.

“Speed to table is where frozen comes in, in spades,” Wyatt said.

Frozen foods are witnessing volume growth for the first time in about three years, according to Circana research, Wyatt said. Bifurcation – with shoppers buying some premium items and going to private label for others, price and size assortments will continue to evolve. Private label food brands reported sales up about 10% last year.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said food prices are expected to decelerate in 2024 compared to recent years. Food prices in 2022 increased by 9.9%, faster than any year since 1979, the USDA said.

The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA), the leading trade association representing all segments of the frozen and refrigerated foods industry, earlier this year released a survey showing 99% find inspiration for dinner in the frozen aisle, while an overwhelming 83% agree that frozen food makes meal planning easier. Almost two-thirds of adults (64%) said frozen foods help stretch their budgets.

The Top 25 Refrigerated Processors Report
R&FF ranks the top five refrigerated foods processors across five categories.

Shopping the frozen food isle
The U.S. is the largest market for frozen food, with eight in 10 Americans eating frozen food at least once per week, according to the Conagra “Future of Frozen Foods” report. Post-COVID, the research found over 50% of U.S. households have a second freezer. Courtesy Getty Images

Cold food companies continue to invest in food manufacturing.  New plants opened in the first half of 2024 include a $355-million bacon production site in Kentucky; a $35-million bakery in Missouri; and FreshRealm, which moved its meal solutions company HQ to Texas and added over 80,000 square feet of space to future-proof production capabilities.

Refrigerated and frozen food plant construction projects announced this year include:

  • Walmart plans a third owned and operated milk-processing facility, this one in Texas, to serve over 750 stores across five states.
  • Daisy Brand is expanding to Iowa, with plans for a 750,000-square-foot facility for its sour cream and cottage cheese business.
  • GEA plans an alternative protein tech center in Wisconsin, aimed at scaling production of novel plant-based microbial and cell-based foods.
  • Rich Products broke ground on the second phase of an expansion project for its branded appetizers segment.
  • Mini Melts USA announced an infusion of capital will fuel expansion of the manufacturing and distribution of its frozen novelties.

The transportation and logistical landscape for refrigerated and frozen foods continues to expand. New cold storage developments announced in the first half of year include:

Our Rankings

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ annual Top 150 Frozen Foods Processors Report is a snapshot of the top 25 frozen foods processors in six categories: Meals & Entrees; Snacks, Apps & Sides; Meat, Poultry & Seafood; Dairy; Fruits & Vegetables; and Bakery. 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 and other business media sources. Because most companies do not separate frozen sales from their total sales, the figures are either company-wide or segmented by region (North American sales, for example). If you work for a company on this list and know the approximate sales data of the frozen products your business produces, please contact me and I will update this page.

Highlights in Meals & Entrees

  •  Schwan's Company plans a massive, 700,000-square-foot Asian-style food production facility in South Dakota.

Highlights in Snacks, Appetizers & Side Dishes

  • Indoor farm company 80 Acres acquired the Mother Raw salad dressing business.
  • SAMBAZON doubled its manufacturing capacity after acquiring SunOpta’s acai and smoothie bowls business earlier this year.

Highlights in Meat, Poultry & Seafood

  • Stampeded Meats changed names to Stampede Culinary Partners and released a fist-of-its-kind sous vide research report.
  • IFF is collaborating with Unilever and Wageningen University to address flavor challenges in plant-based meat.

Highlights in Dairy

  • Tillamook this fall plans to open its first manufacturing site outside its home state of Oregon.
  • Swiss foodtech company, Cultivated Biosciences, raised $5-million in seed funding for the development of animal-free dairy.

Women shopping frozen food
Almost two-thirds of adults (64%) said frozen foods help stretch their budgets, according to research from the NFRA. Courtesy Getty Images.

Highlights in Fruits & Vegetables

  • Twin City Foods, Inc. and Smith Frozen Foods, Inc. announced plans to merge, operating under a new parent company TCF Holdings, Inc.
  • To kick off the first National Frozen Veggie Week, Nortera released a survey detailing Canadians’ preferences.

Highlights in Bakery

  • Marson Foods opened a $35-million bakery and distribution center in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • Vandemoortele, a European family-owned food group, announced a strategic partnership agreement with Banneton, a high-quality manufacturer of premium freezer-to-oven croissants, Danishes and pastries in North America.
  • Aspire Bakeries remodeled its Pennsylvania facility to add a puff pastry production line.