The pandemic changed our behaviour and preferences in a lot of ways. Some habits will surely wane with the pandemic, while others seem here to stay. Our preference for frozen food is only growing stronger.
The pandemic changed consumer preferences and shopping habits on several fronts. Due to closed restaurants, home-delivered food became more popular than ever. People started to bake sourdough bread like never before. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, people developed a new interest in freezers. In market research done by Deloitte, a consultancy, over 30% of the respondents said they invested in more freezing capacity during 2020. The reason behind the freezer frenzy was the need to stock up on food to avoid having to go grocery shopping several times a week. This prompted the need for food with long shelf life, and consumers turned to aisles with frozen food.
Germany, France and UK dominating in Europe
While there are several options for food with long-shelf life, frozen food has become a bit of a favourite. According to the British Frozen Food Federation, the sales of retail frozen food in the UK increased by 872 million pounds to over 7 billion pounds in 2020, which means an increase of over 14%. In 2020, Germany was the most important frozen food market in Europe with an estimated market share of 19 % amounting to a market value of 12 billion EUR , followed by the UK with a 17 % market share. France is with a 13 % market share the third most important frozen food market in Europe.
The same trend can be discerned in the US, where during 2020, the first year of the pandemic, sales for frozen food went up by over 20%.
This consumer trend started to gain momentum already well before the pandemic due to our increasingly busy lifestyles that call for quick and easily prepared dinners.
The pandemic further fuelled this trend, and the statistics hint that this behaviour will stick even as the pandemic starts to wane. In total, the European frozen food market is expected to reach 108 billion EUR by 2027, implying that the industry will grow with a compound annual growth rate of 5.15% from 2020 to 2027. The interest in more freezer capacity at home supports these figures: according to Industry Arc, a market research company, the market for upright freezers is projected to grow to a 4.4 billion EUR market by 2026 in Europe.
In total, the European frozen food market is expected to reach 108 billion EUR by 2027, implying that the industry will grow with a compound annual growth rate of 5.15% from 2020 to 2027.
Changed consumer preferences
Looks like the preference for frozen food is here to stay. And indeed, frozen food is a sensible option in a lot of ways.
However, for quite some time, consumer preferences stood in the way for frozen food to gain larger traction. That is no longer the case. Whereas older generations may have frowned upon it as improper and unhealthy food with less vitamins, that perception has changed radically, especially among younger consumers. Thanks to millennials, who perceive frozen food as a safer option as it doesn’t go bad as quickly as fresh food, the whole industry has undergone a significant reputation shift in the last decade. Food producers have been quick to respond to young consumers preferences, and now serve a large variety of vegan and vegetarian options too.
Less food waste
According to research published in the British Food Journal, the use of frozen foods generates up to 47% less food waste in homes compared to ambient food.
According to the academic journal, especially millennials who tend to be more mindful about sustainable consumer habits, have found frozen food to be the right choice also for environmental reasons. After all, food waste stands for up to 9 % of global carbon emissions, and one of the main culprits is buying food that goes bad before it has even been prepared.
Another good thing with precooked frozen meals is that they are portion-controlled, meaning that you do not risk cooking more than you eat. Especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables, it’s easier to cook only what you need from the resealable pouches. Fresh fruit and vegetables that go unconsumed are the food stuff that contributes the most to food waste.
The interest for frozen food is set to increase, not only in Europe and North America, but also elsewhere. The demand in Asia Pacific is growing rapidly. Middle-classification in Asia with more women entering the labour market is calling for easy dinners and less frequent grocery shopping. Food producers are investing in infrastructure to keep the cold chain intact and make frozen food suitable for online shopping in line with Asian consumers’ preferences.
The demand for frozen food can also be discerned on the market for refrigerated warehouse. The market is expected to reach nearly
showing a compound annual growth rate of 9 % since 2020.
Sources: Statista, Deloitte, British Food Journal, International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses