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Can plant-based foods save a declining frozen category?

Frozen beet lasagna
Plant-based options soar off the shelf, as they dismantle taste and health stigmas associated with frozen foods.

Highly processed. Bursting with sodium. Loaded with artificial ingredients. The reputation for frozen foods hasn’t served the category well as consumers place greater value on clean labels versus convenience. According to Packaged Facts’ “U.S. Food Market Outlook 2018” report, though the frozen dinner and entrée market posts an impressive $10 billion in retail value, sales have declined at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 1 percent between 2012 and 2017. Dollars were down in all years and volume declined at an even faster rate, showing just how quickly consumers are stepping away from the freezer aisle.

The problem, noted Packaged Facts, is the frozen aisle isn’t the only place consumers can get convenient foods, and frozen’s convenience is often outweighed by its unhealthy stigma. The report pointed out consumers can easily order fresh food for delivery or go out for it, which has been on the rise since the economy has improved. Plus, competition is fierce from refrigerated offerings, as well as freshly prepared foods at retail—not to mention home-cooked meals.

Growth in the frozen category is coming from higher-priced products offering premium ingredients, as well as those perceived to be healthier, more nutritious, and made from real and natural ingredients. Natural, organic and “real” food resonate, the report stated, as do nutritious ingredients like beans and grains. Enter plant-based frozen food. According to Monica Klausner, co-founder of frozen plant-based meal delivery service Veestro, the segment “has exploded in the last five years, experiencing double-digit growth year over year.” “Overall, the growth in plant-based frozen foods is spurred by Millennials looking for convenience, and the increased interest in better-for-you foods that are affordable,” she added.

Several drivers are responsible for the increased interest in plant-based frozen foods: the overall health halo that accompanies plant-based products and frozen fruits and veggies; and the rise of flexitarian dieters.

For more on this topic, download Food Insider Journal’s July 2018 issue “Plant Protein: Feeding the Good Food Future.”

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