2020 proved to be a big year for the frozen snack industry. The pandemic encouraged larger baskets as consumers hunkered down and stocked their freezers. To compensate for the absence of dining-out options, consumers took to the frozen aisle to purchase their hors d’oeuvres. The frozen snack category is projected to continue its overall growth through 2025, but brands will need to address a few concerns if they hope to attract new consumers in the long run.

As it has with other convenience and value-centric foods positioned in the center of store, COVID-19 has triggered a surge in frozen snack sales. After years of modest yet steady growth, 2020 will deliver the strongest growth the category has seen in a decade, with an 11.3% bump bringing sales to $5.6 billion. Price, brand and versatility (as a meal or a snack) are the primary factors consumers seek in product selection. Each of these will become even more important as the country navigates a deep recession.”

– Billy Roberts, Sr. Analyst – Food and Drink

Total US retail sales and forecast of frozen snacks, at current prices, 2015-25

Frozen Food Opportunities & Challenges

Cater to adults – Mintel reports a downward trend in the number of U.S. households with kids. This translates into lost revenue in the frozen aisle, as fewer parents are purchasing frozen snacks for their children. To overcome this hurdle, frozen food brands should find ways to market more effectively to adults. According to Mintel, “Engagement in the category declines with kid’s age, and these consumers don’t re-engage with the category until they begin their own families, if they do.”

Repertoire of frozen snack purchase, by parental status, April 2020

Make health a priority- Brands can expand their consumer base by catering to health-conscious consumers. As consumers look to improve their overall health and immune systems in the wake of COVID-19, frozen food brands will need to combat the various stigmas surrounding the category: over-processing and indulgence. “Even in the early stages of the pandemic-related stay-at-home orders, three quarters of frozen snack consumers expressed interest in options with healthier ingredients, and over half reported that healthier options would motivate them to buy frozen snacks more often,” reports Mintel.

Keep price down – Mintel found that when consumers were asked about the importance of price vs brand familiarity during the purchasing process, 63% of consumers listed price as an important factor, opposed to 40% of consumers who listed familiar brands as an important factor. To succeed in the frozen space, brands will need to prove their value and convenience to potential buyers.