The adage, "shoot for the moon and you'll still land among the stars" comes to mind when assessing frozen food sales since early March. The rocket launch of consumer stockpiling created astronomical sales figures that were impossible to sustain, but now that buying has leveled off, the year-over-year numbers look like they'll be hovering around +30% over 2019 sales for weeks to come, if not the rest of 2020, according to new data from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) and 210 Analytics. That means the meteoric sales arc created by panic buying in March has a long way to go before it comes down to normal levels. 

The AFFI/210 Analytics report--Frozen Food Sales Amid COVID-19--details the positive impact on the frozen foods industry since early March, including:

Sales holding strong: After a 94% surge in mid-March, overall frozen food sales are holding at 30% to 35% increases in April 2020 vs. April 2019.

The vast majority of Americans are buying frozen food: 86% of all consumers have bought frozen food items, such as frozen pizza, vegetables and entrees, since early March. “This includes an equal share of frequent frozen food buyers, as well as consumers who don’t consider themselves regular purchasers,” says 210 Analytics’ Principal and Founder Anne-Marie Roerink.

The category has added new customers: 7% of consumers who previously, rarely or never purchased frozen foods pre-pandemic are now buying. “This is a tremendous expansion of the category that could have long-term implications,” Roerink says. “This includes Gen Z buyers, as well as Baby Boomers who left the category during the TV dinner era--returning now to find newer, tastier products.”

Loyal customers are buying more and trying new: In addition to new feet in the frozen food aisles, current consumers are changing frozen buying behaviors--70% are buying more than usual and 68% are trying new brands and products.

Satisfaction is high: Consumers are very happy with their new frozen purchases. On a five-point scale where five is excellent, convenience received the highest ranking at 4.3, and quality was second, at 4.1.

Buyers will come back: 50% of consumers who have purchased frozen foods since COVID-19’s onset say they will purchase a lot more (18%) or somewhat more (32%) in the next few months.

“This study suggests frozen will remain a category heavyweight for months and years ahead as the category attracts new and returning customers who are relying on a variety of frozen foods to provide much-needed convenience and satisfaction,” said AFFI President and CEO Alison Bodor. “These results show growth in the category that goes beyond the popularity with younger generations that was illustrated in our ‘2019 Power of Frozen’ study.”

Click here for more COVID-19 coverage and how it is affecting the refrigerated and frozen foods industry.