From frozen desserts to appetizers and meals, the frozen section in U.S. grocery stores has the ability to be a one-stop shop for on-the-go consumers. In fact, 26% of total U.S. grocery shoppers are shopping in the frozen foods department more frequently than last year, and it's being led by Millennials and households with children, according to The Future of Frozen, produced by Acosta Sales & Marketing, Jacksonville, Fla.

"Frozen food is certainly its own umbrella category, but its versatility allows it to span multiple mealtime occasions, which is why there has been a lot of room for growth and innovation across items and brands," says Colin Stewart, senior vice president. "Competition in the category is heating up, as fast-paced Millennials, who often take greater interest in the health benefits of food than older generations, look to frozen as a way to eat well in a convenient and hassle-free manner."

The battle of fresh vs. frozen
Fresh foods continue to reign supreme in the grocery store, but attitudes toward frozen products might be thawing out, as the category is starting to prove itself as stiff competition for the store perimeter.

  • Although most shoppers feel fresh food is healthier than frozen, each generational demographic has reported buying more frozen food than last year, including 43% of Millennials; 27%t of GenXers; 19% of Baby Boomers; and 19% of Silents.
  • For shoppers purchasing more frozen foods this year, the following factors are ranked as most important in making purchasing decisions—no antibiotics (76%); hormone-free (76%); all-natural (73%); sustainable (71%); and low sodium (69%).
  • Among respondents who anticipate buying more frozen foods in the coming year, 41% cite convenience as the reason why.
  • Less waste is also top-of-mind, with 32% of shoppers expecting to purchase more in the frozen food aisle because they don't spoil as quickly as fresh foods.

Millennials aren't giving the frozen aisles the cold shoulder  
Millennials find a lot of value in frozen foods, which is great news for the category, as this age demographic is entering its peak spending years.

  • For Millennials, frozen foods are valuable as quick dinner solutions (89%); convenient lunches (72%); convenient breakfasts for kids (81%); and as side dishes (78%).
  • 54% of Millennials will only buy specific frozen foods because they believe them to be healthier, while that amount is 48% for both GenXers and Boomers.
  • Nearly one in three Millennials have purchased frozen foods online, and most of these orders arrive via a grocery delivery service (68%) or from a pure-play retailer (68%).

"Retailers and brands should keep in mind that a majority of consumers are looking for quick and easy options, while continuing to search for products that provide variety and health benefits to their households," adds Stewart. "However, frozen foods are one of the few categories that are still more frequently purchased in store than online, so these items just might be the key to drawing shoppers from the perimeter into center store, as shoppers can check many items off their grocery lists at once. Retailers should ensure the frozen section is easily navigable, and should keep end-cap freezers stocked with a variety of teaser items as to what else is available down the aisles."