Frozen entree consumption is falling back down to pre-coronavirus levels, although just more than half of Americans currently say they prepare a frozen entree at least once a week. At the height of the coronavirus lockdowns, that number touched 57%.

As for brands, it’s Stouffer’s world and we’re just microwaving in it. Stouffer’s is by far the number one selling brand of frozen entrees, and it shows when people are asked how often they or their family sit down to a meal. Nearly one-in-five Americans say they or their family like to eat Stouffer’s meals “a lot,” and nearly half of Americans say they like to eat them at least “a little.” Basically, 65% of Americans who are aware of Stouffer’s frozen entrees are down with some Stouffer’s French Bread pizza.

No other competitor comes near that number. The closest is Lean Cuisine, with a little more than half the nation saying they or their family enjoy eating the meals.

Stouffer’s – while enjoyed by all age groups – has a much higher concentration in the over-55 crowd (along with Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice).

Swanson is in a weird position, holding its popularity at the outer edges, with the 18-24 and the over-55 cohorts both significantly outpacing the two middle age groups’ love for the brand. Perhaps there’s a retro-cool thing happening with Swanson and Gen Z? If so, Swanson marketers should get on that before the succotash dries out.

Interestingly, Amy’s – an organic brand – is about as equally popular among all age groups. Same with Kashi, which bills itself as the whole grain champion of the world.

Though Stouffer’s has a stronghold in terms of favorability, people who like the brand are the most likely to eat frozen entrees just once or twice a week. Amy’s and Kashi sits in an interesting position: Nearly 3 in 10 people who like Amy’s and Kashi – and eat frozen entrees – report doing so three or more times a week.  

Parents – that harried bunch – interestingly under index, across all brands, when it comes to how much they and their family enjoy frozen entrees. But once again – and unsurprisingly – Stouffer’s breaks through as the most popular by a significant margin. Also notable: Swanson’s numbers are the tightest of the bunch. Clearly, there’s something – wait for it – cooking with Swanson’s and the younger crowd right now. The bigger story here is non-parents are more likely to enjoy frozen meals than parents.

One of the main reasons frozen entree brands are in business is because some people simply don’t like to cook. But a more interesting number? The people who both like to cook and who also like individual brands of frozen entrees. And these numbers tell a story for Amy’s.

Basically, people who like Amy’s and also like to cook like Amy’s more than people who don’t like to cook. The number is razor-thin, but every other brand shows a big difference going the opposite direction, with people who don’t enjoy cooking having a much more positive view of frozen entrees than people who do enjoy getting behind the sauté  pan..

This is notable for Amy’s, and it would appear a marketing campaign aimed at home cooks – notably, organically-inclined home cooks – should be in the offing.

Frozen entrees have been an American staple for nearly 70 years, since the first TV dinners were introduced. And while the market is mature, the coronavirus kicked the industry into high gear. But now, with frozen entree consumption falling back down to pre-coronavirus numbers, brands will undoubtedly be seeking ways to hold on to their gains. Creative – and highly specific – marketing certainly seems like one direction to take.