The conversation about frozen foods is changing, as consumer perceptions are on the rise, and the numbers are showing growth in the category after a number of years of decline, as evidenced in this new Frozen Foods Have Never Been Hotter Infographic, produced by the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA), Harrisburg, Pa.

Results from NFRA’s recent March Frozen Food Month promotion showed a 1.9% increase in unit sales and 2.2% in dollar sales, according to Nielsen, Chicago.

A report from RBC Capital Markets, Canada, showed volume growth for the frozen category turned positive for the first time in five years, up 1% for the 12 weeks ending March 10. Frozen meals and appetizers, which make up 35% of the category, saw sales growth of 3%, the highest in five years.

Nielsen reported that U.S. frozen food dollar sales rose 1.4% in the last year, with frozen vegetables particularly strong, jumping 4.5%.

The Future of Frozen” report, by Acosta Sales & Marketing, Jacksonville, Fla., showed 26% of total U.S. grocery shoppers shopping in the frozen foods department more frequently than last year with Millennials leading the way. Forty-three percent said they bought more frozen items than the previous year, spending 9% more than average households per trip on frozen foods in 2017.

Innovation in frozen foods

"The industry together is doing a great job in making this turn around happen," says Skip Shaw, president and CEO of NFRA. "The innovation we're seeing from our brands in both product development and packaging demonstrates success in meeting the needs of a changing consumer base and aligning frozen food offerings to their new demands. There are many new frozen food brands and product lines that are now catering to a wider variety of cultures and dietary requirements. Whether someone is looking for vegan, ethnic, gluten-free, organic or antibiotic-free meat, the frozen food aisle has it all, and more."

Changing perceptions and stigma

In 2013, NFRA launched a contemporary communications program called Real Food. Frozen, designed to change the perceptions and stigma surrounding frozen foods and bring more shoppers into the frozen food aisles.

“We go where the consumer is talking about food, and communicate about the benefits of frozen food," adds Shaw. "We utilize extensive social media campaigns, influencer marketing, media outreach and strategic partnerships and collaborative industry efforts to tell the frozen food story to large audiences. The messaging is resonating for sure, particularly with Millennials. Additionally, the industry's 'perfect preservation' flash-freeze technology is appealing to consumers today. They are looking for simpler, nutrient-rich, flavorful and less engineered foods. And, they are concerned about food waste. Many products in the frozen aisles today meet their criteria, and this new consumer is realizing more and more that frozen food is real food…just frozen."