Discovering the winning trends in the frozen food aisle

According to The Food Institute, frozen food total sales have increased in the USA since 2019, as unit sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels
Discovering the winning trends in the frozen food aisle

After years of economic upheaval, frozen food remains a beacon of convenience, innovation, and, at times, affordability. The Food Institute analyzed the US market to discover which categories and brands are in high demand as the new year approaches.

Frozen food sales have increased by $20 billion since 2019, but unit sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels,” Anne-Marie Roerink, CEO of 210 Analytics, told The Food Institute. “Despite inflation, cost continues to be a strong suit for frozen food, at least in part due to the no/low waste factor compared to fresh.”

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Much like total stores, frozen food has witnessed significant inflation over the past four years. Comparative unit sales remained relatively consistent from 2019 to the present, except for a 14.3% spike in the 2020 calendar year. Per Circana, dollar sales for frozen food reached $74.2 billion in the 52 weeks ending November 19. Inflated prices continue to prop up year-over-year (YOY) dollar gains (3.7%) while putting pressure on unit sales (-4.2%).

In response to steady demand and innovation, many retailers are doubling down on frozen by adding an extra aisle or utilizing standalone freezers to bring frozen foods into different areas of the store.

According to Roerink, optimizing purchases when shoppers are in the aisle is paramount, as most frozen food consumers purchase a limited variety of items. “Introducing [shoppers] to new types of frozen food offerings can be a way to recoup some of the lost units over the past few years,” said Roerink. “Frozen food is experiencing fewer trips compared to last year, so those secondary [freezer] locations can make the difference to drive an extra purchase.”


Diving deeper into Circana data, several categories in frozen are exhibiting strong sales performance. In frozen fruits and veggies, potato and onion-based items, such as fries and onion rings, are standout performers, with dollar sales up 33.6% YOY and even unit sales.

In processed meat and poultry, dollar sales for frozen bacon grew 63.7% YOY, while unit sales more than doubled (52.8%). Frozen dinner sausage sales are also up in both dollars (15.9%) and units (31.3%).

Demand for frozen baked goods is noteworthy. Dollar sales for frozen cookies spiked 34% YOY — largely due to a 32.3% price increase — but unit sales also exhibited a marginal lift (1.3%) as shoppers are continuing to purchase these products despite the higher price tag.

In the last three months, 41% of shoppers purchased individual-size frozen meals weekly, or every time they shop, according to Brightfield Group’s Q3 2023 survey. This compares to 23.8% for 2-serving size and 20% for family-sized portions.

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