Driven by stay-at-home orders and limited dining options, the pandemic boosted U.S. frozen food sales significantly, rising 21 percent in 2020 to more than $65 billion. While consumer mobility increases, studies show that consumers are continuing to rely on the frozen food aisle.
Over the last 52 weeks ending late May 2021, frozen food sales were up more than 9 percent versus the same period a year ago—four percent higher than the 5.8 percent increase in sales seen for all foods and beverages. Frozen foods were more than 22 percent above their 2019 pre-pandemic baseline, compared to the 14.8 percent increase in total foods and beverages sales. To date, frozen food gains have been consistently above 20 percent versus 2019.
Although we’re not yet in a post-pandemic world, several consumer shifts in grocery-shopping behavior continue. For example, consumers remain focused on saving money while eating healthy and nutritious foods. Consumer’s quest for healthy foods includes the demand for plant-based options, with plant-based frozen meals growing 29 percent in the past year, exceeding frozen food growth by eight percent.
Frozen foods offer what consumers want—healthy, nutritious food that’s convenient, economical, and offers variety. The frozen food industry continues to expand with options to satisfy evolving needs and desires. We’ve rounded up some common frequently asked questions to help consumers understand the frozen advantage.
Frozen Food Myths and Facts
Myth #1: Fresh food is healthier than frozen food
Frozen food is as nutritious as fresh-stored produce, and in some cases, even fresher. Frozen fruits and vegetables, for example, are picked at peak ripeness and flash-frozen within hours of harvest, which locks in flavor and nutrients. Scientific studies have shown that the nutrients in frozen foods are similar immediately after being picked, but after five days in the refrigerator, fresh produce had less vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate than frozen.
Myth #2: Frozen food is more expensive
Frozen foods are often lower in cost-per-serving and have a longer shelf-life than refrigerated or fresh foods. That longer shelf-life means reduced food waste, saving money in the long run.
Myth #3: All frozen food is high in sodium
Freezing itself is a preservative. Therefore, added sodium isn’t always needed to extend the shelf life of frozen foods. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables often have no sodium. In addition, frozen food companies have made, and continue to make, strides to reduce the sodium content of their foods by offering a variety of products to meet consumer demands – lower sodium, reduced sodium, lightly salted, and no salt options.
Myth #4: All frozen foods contain preservatives
It’s a common misconception, but added preservatives are not necessary to preserve frozen food. The freezing process acts as a natural preservative. Many of your favorite frozen foods contain no preservatives.
Myth #5: Frozen meals don’t use real ingredients
Many frozen meals use the highest quality ingredients, including real cheese and even pasta made from scratch. As with any food product, check the label to find out what ingredients are used.