Frozen food continues to win as regions re-open, but what consumers reach for is evolving, IRI finds

In the months following the initial coronavirus outbreak, headline after headline declared frozen foods a ‘sales powerhouse,’ as consumers looked for comforting, convenient and healthy food with which to stock their kitchens, IRI executive president Sally Lyons Wyatt said during a recent presentation.

While that “story is not new,”​ Wyatt told said what is new is the staying power and strength of frozen even as mobility increases and consumers have more options now that they can more safely visit grocery stores and go to restaurants.

According to IRI data, in the year ending June 13, 2021, dollar sales of frozen sky rocketed 9.9% — outpacing total retail food and beverage sales, which was up 7.4% and tailing only beverage sales, which were up 10.9% in the period. Unit sales of frozen also led the pack with at 4.6% increase in the 52 weeks preceding June 13, compared to 1.2% for all food and beverage.

The fact that retail dollar sales outpaced unit sales indicates that much of the ongoing growth in frozen is driven by price – a notable attribute as inflation begins to push up the cost of food across categories, Wyatt said.

“Frozen actually hasn’t seen as fast as the price increases as other area in the food and beverage,”​ with he average price per unit increasing only 2.9% over a year ago compared to a 3.1% increase for fresh and 3.6% average increase for shelf stable products, Wyatt said.

In some categories, the price change between frozen and its fresh counterparts was more notable, she added. For example, the price of frozen meat increased only 3.9% compared to 4.5% for fresh, frozen seafood increased 3% compared to 3.5% for fresh and the price for frozen vegetables actually fell 0.8% compared to fresh which went up 0.9%.

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