The Independent’s Playbook: Keeping it Real (Cold)

March 23, 2022

By Jim Dudlicek, NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

March is Frozen Food Month and I’m sure grocers have been leveraging the occasion to drive traffic in a category that has grown increasingly popular in recent years.

There may be less than two weeks left in the month, but there’s no reason to be restricted by a 31-day promotional period to use the frozen aisle as a sales driver.

According to the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), gains in frozen sales have outpaced total food and beverage for the past five years, and that growth is centered around three key areas: convenience, sustainability and personalization.

As the pandemic dragged on for a second year, consumers experienced at-home cooking fatigue as well as a marketplace beset by supply chain challenges, not to mention inflation that has reached new record levels, and frozen foods have provided convenient solutions. Frozen foods offer extended shelf life and they more frequently carry sustainability claims. Additionally, technology enables personalization of frozen foods in areas such as clean-label options and products targeting specific health needs, according to an IRI report presented at AFFI’s leadership conference last fall.

These growth drivers are among the reasons that frozen foods have found affinity with a key consumer demographic: millennials.

According to AFFI, frozen food dollar sales among lower-income millennials are up 15 percent, and the institute names renewed engagement with upper-income households as a significant opportunity for 2022. In fact, older millennials reportedly represent nearly half of core frozen-food consumers.

So, there are sales to be had in the frozen aisle to folks with significant spending power, keeping in mind the characteristics that millennials prize most in the products they choose. Millennials (and, we might as well note, the younger Generation Z’s that follow them) value products that are authentic, earth-friendly and free of ingredients they consider unhealthy. They more often choose products made by companies driven not only by profit but by purpose. They crave convenience in their busy lifestyles. And, of course, let’s not forget about taste.

So, independent grocers should keep all these factors in mind when merchandising their frozen aisles. Prominently position products with in-demand aspects and claims. Play up convenience – offer recipes like those suggested by the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA). And, especially during the current inflationary period, show how frozen foods deliver good value.

In other words, keep it real.