- Frozen foods, including both large and small brands, are working to reinvigorate a category that has seen lagging sales over the past few years as customers turn toward foods they deem to be fresher and contain more natural ingredients.
- Nielsen data shows that frozen food sales have grown by less than 1% on average for the past four years. By the unit, sales have actually dipped 2%.
- From Nestle's new frozen food R&D center in Solon, OH, to up-and-coming brands like Luvo and Amy's Kitchen, food companies are finding ways to bring consumers back to frozen foods.
Part of what this category has had to overcome is the misconception that frozen foods must always use additives to keep products edible.
"There’s been a lot of baggage in this industry with consumers thinking we use a lot of preservatives," Rob McCutcheon, president of ConAgra’s frozen business, told The New York Times. "But we usually don’t need to add preservatives to our frozen products, because freezing is like nature’s pause button."
Smaller companies often find ways to replace artificial ingredients with healthy and nutritious ingredients and clearly label their products as such to capture that segment of the health-conscious consumer base. Larger companies are trying to catch up, with Nestle removing artificial flavors from its frozen pizzas, but those efforts haven't been enough to maintain market share.
Investment bank Jeffries's 2014 report found that smaller brands have increased their share of revenue for frozen entrees, while more established companies have lost over 5% of their share. The frozen vegetables category has seen a similar change of hands for revenue share as well.
To fight back, Nestle has also reinvented its Lean Cuisine brand with new varieties and packaging, such as Vermont White Cheddar Mac & Cheese, which is "made with organic pasta" and "No GMO ingredients." Lean Cuisine sales had previously been falling steadily, about 20% in the past two years.