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AFFI push heats up the $52bn frozen food market

The American Frozen Food Institute is educating consumers of the taste, quality, and shelf-life extension benefits offered by frozen food.
The American Frozen Food Institute is educating consumers of the taste, quality, and shelf-life extension benefits offered by frozen food.

The American Frozen Food Institute is bolstering frozen food sales by highlighting the nutritional and quality benefits of freezing.

AFFI has launched its Frozen: How Fresh Stays Fresh campaign, engineered to revitalize sales in the relatively static category. The effort (supported by ConAgra Foods, Pinnacle Foods, Nestlé, Heinz, and other high-profile brands) comprises advertising, in-store promotions, and web communication touting the advantages of choosing frozen edibles over other products.

Shelf-life benefits

Corey Henry, AFFI’s vice president of communications, told FoodProductionDaily the campaign is geared toward reminding consumers of the shelf-life extension benefits offered by frozen food manufacturers.

Freezing is just a natural pause button,” he said. “By conveying to consumers freezing is doing is extending the life of fresh food, it enhances their understanding—a frozen lasagne is no different than what’s in the pan of Mom’s lasagna, with fresh, tasty ingredients.”

Cold sales

Frozen food in the US saw $52bn in sales at the end of 2013, according to Henry. The figure constitutes a modest increase compared to the previous year.

Frozen food as a category has been relatively flat,” Henry said. “Certain segments, however, are doing quite well—frozen fruit is growing exponentially, and we’re also seeing growth in frozen vegetables.”

Another segment of frozen food enjoying increase sales, Henry told FPD, is breakfast foods, thanks to the convenience and nutritional benefits.

Americans are appreciating they need to start the day with a nutritious, satisfying breakfast that’s easy to prepare,” he said. “If they have a large family, the kids still need to be fed and put on the school bus every morning.”

Positive news

Henry said frozen food manufacturers have struggled to spread the word of the taste and quality of their offerings.

The only message consumers have been hearing is, ‘Fresh is best,’” he said. “We want to ensure consumers have a full appreciation for the taste and nutritional benefits of frozen food, as well as the variety available to them.”

The Frozen: How Fresh Stays Fresh campaign, according to Henry, will target increasing consumer awareness of freezing’s shelf-life extension benefits, changing their perception, and, ultimately, their shopping behavior.

Then, when they look to fill their kitchen, frozen food becomes an integral part of that process,” he said.

Product advancement

The shelf-life extension of frozen food is helped by the evolution of packaging technology. One technology increasing in popularity is steamable bags, which are used for vegetables and portion-controlled meals.

Brands big and small have broadened their frozen offerings in recent years. Nestle has broadened its Lean Cuisine line with new entrees, snacks, and breakfast items in recent years. However, the top players like Nestlé, ConAgra, and Heinz have been joined by hundreds of smaller producers offering ethnic treats, frozen desserts, dietary-restricted foods, and other speciality products.

Consumers are much more sophisticated and demanding when it comes to shopping than ever before,” he said. “Whatever a shopper is looking for, they will find in the frozen food aisle.”

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