Global analysis of the frozen food market anticipates the industry will grow significantly over the next several years. The stay-at-home culture, intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, has made consumers thoughtful about their food choices, their health, and their spending. In this report, CivicScience data illustrate what we know about consumer preferences and shopping habits related to frozen foods.
In a CivicScience survey of 46,265 U.S. adults over a 90-day period, 58% reported that frozen entrees were part of their weekly meal lineup. Among people who reported eating frozen entrees on a weekly basis, the majority (76%) do so at most twice per week.
Among the options studied, the most frequently purchased frozen foods were frozen vegetables – 76% of the Gen Pop 18 and older reported buying them at least somewhat often.
Frequency of buying any kind of frozen food has stayed the same for about 67% of the population while 33% report buying either more or less than they have in the past.
Impact of the Pandemic
Consumer confidence made significant progress following the initial release of the vaccine. However, the alarming nature of the Delta variant – and the steady percentage of unvaccinated Americans – has undone some of that progress, setting the population back to general comfort levels seen in March and April 2021. This decline in general comfort levels is very likely to continue, therefore further affecting how consumers decide what to eat and where to buy it.
After reaching its highest point (75%) in June, comfort eating out at restaurants has declined 14%. Not only that, but people who reported eating at home less and less between January 2021 and June 2021 are now dropping off to reveal a slight rise in the percentage of U.S. adults choosing to cook at home rather than eat out or order takeout.
While nearly half of the Gen Pop report some level of concern about the Delta variant, those who say they are buying more frozen food than usual over-index in their concern about the virus strand.
And while close to one-third of the population reported being better off, data collected during August 2021 propose a coming change. The 21% of worse off consumers who are buying less frozen food could grow if the Delta variant wreaks more havoc than the initial virus strand.
The same is true for the percentage of U.S. adults who have been working less hours or with reduced pay – or not working at all. This group of consumers has the largest percentage of respondents indicating they are buying less frozen food than usual. Should more employment situations suffer from the Delta variant, the number of frozen food buyers could decrease even more.
Overall comfort with daily activities is starting to fray as the Delta variant pushes consumers back into their homes and away from the spending habits they were beginning to rebuild. The frozen food market will continue to benefit from people working remotely and those who have generally been exempt from significant financial hardships during the pandemic. The pervasiveness and unpredictable nature of the Delta variant is what controls many of the questions hanging in the balance. The speed at which the U.S. can manage and control the variant will determine the full impact on consumer decision making related to food, specifically the frozen food market.