As consumers stock up on grocery items and prepare more food at home, one category is experiencing sales far above the rest. Long shelf-life and easy preparation have driven up sales of frozen foods such as pizzas, meats and vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic. And a new study from the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) suggests those elevated sales will continue for the next few months.
The study revealed that 70 percent of Americans have bought more frozen food and 86 percent of US consumers purchased frozen food since March. The survey found that consumers are buying more frozen items because of the longer shelf life, desire to stock up in case of shortages and convenience of preparation and cleanup. About a third of consumers believe frozen foods to be safer than fresh foods right now and for many, frozen meals have turned into comfort food.
“Across demographics, consumers have been buying more frozen foods than during regular times as well as different items and brands. Millennials, who already were above average buyers of frozen food, are the most likely to have been purchasing more since early March. Frozen foods are also clearly a solution for families, with 81 percent of households with children under the age of 18 living at home having bought more frozen food since early March versus 61 percent of households without children living at home,” the AFFI survey explained.
Although frozen vegetables and meat are popular categories, pizza and other comfort foods are also high on the list. Consumers have been buying more multi-serve entrees such as lasagna and pot pies, as well as frozen desserts and snacks. During times of stress and uncertainty, some people turn to comfort food to cope.
Consumers have multiple motivations to buy frozen meals right now, including the desire to minimize the number of trips to the grocery store and lower the risk of potential exposure to the coronavirus. Another important motivator is the availability of items on store shelves. For example, shoppers who cannot find canned vegetables turn to frozen items.
The AFFI points out that the trend in higher frozen food purchases may continue in the future since half of consumers expect they will purchase a lot more, or somewhat more, frozen foods in the next few months. The more people in the household, the higher the likelihood of continuing to buy more frozen foods than usual.
The frozen foods market, which posted low single-digit growth in 2019 and was flat the year before, is being primed for a rebound. Whether food manufacturers will be able to keep up with the demand remains to be seen.