As frozen dinners change, more busy parents are buying them
- A joint study between the University of Minnesota and Duke University revealed that frozen and processed meals are a popular choice for consumers because they reduce the energy, time, and cooking skills needed to prepare food, according to Elsevier.
- 57% of surveyed parents said they bought frozen meals to save time. Almost half — 49% — said that their families enjoyed the meals, and nearly 33% liked the fact that kids could help prepare them.
- Researchers also found that parents who work longer hours per week are more likely to buy prepackaged, processed meals.
Studies are mixed about consumer interest in frozen food. The New York Times ran a story last year about a three-year decline in unit sales. Other reports have shown the opposite to be true, saying the category is as popular as it’s ever been. Last year, Future Market Insights projected the segment would have a CAGR of 7.2% in the next 10 years, driven by more working women, a growing millennial population, and more on-the-go eating habits.
One thing is certain: manufacturers have begun to change the way they make frozen foods, and consumers are seeing them in a new light. Frozen meals were once synonymous with TV dinners, but today's frozen foods sector offers healthier and better-tasting options. Plus, they are now being designed with family meals in mind, rather than the single diner of yesteryear.
According to a 2015 International Food Information Council report, sales of natural frozen foods with "real" ingredients have increased. This reflects consumer trends toward both health and convenience. Shoppers want fast preparation, but don't want to compromise on nutrition.
Food analysts say that in order to win in this category, manufacturers need to offer healthy frozen meals for the whole family. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently reported organic and “natural” ready-to-eat meals are projected to become a $2.2 billion business in the U.S. by the end of the year.
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