health food marketing - frozen

In contrast to the declines of years past, frozen food producers in the US are beginning to recoup sales losses after decades of TV dinner perceptions. Once relying on the benefit of convenience only, frozen food brands may have fallen behind the eight ball when it came to providing consumers with healthy and fresh options (think chicken-fried steak with gravy) but the dinner tables are turning and so is health food marketing.

While we all know that just building it, doesn’t necessarily mean they will come, brands have begun to tap into more recent consumer usage and needs when it comes to frozen, and to their benefit. In a New York Times article by Annie Gasparro, ConAgra’s president of consumer frozen-food division was quoted saying,

“Within this foodie culture the last few years, I think there has been a change in how some people define healthy foods…There is definitely a push toward products that are more real, higher quality, more homemade and closer to the source.”

Recognizing the unfortunate perceptions consumers had of the category as unhealthy and over-processed, especially among younger consumers, ConAgra discontinued some of their Healthy Choice SKUs and made a shift to simplifying their ingredient list, opting for real garlic, rather than garlic paste and shifting their strategic target toward older consumers by featuring functional claims of heart-healthy. More recently, ConAgra acquired Blake’s All Natural brand, which offers the traditional comfort meals of frozen-foods past, but with an all-natural and/or organic twist.

For years, consumers have equated frozen foods as convenience and value-oriented options, but rarely as fresh. However, this is another opportunity-area for the frozen category. Just ask Dole – one brand who is meeting demand for frozen fruits, especially antioxidant-rich berries and exotic fruits. A win for health food marketing.

In Elaine Watson’s article for, Senior Director of Marketing for Frozen at Dole Packaged Food noted,

“We’re also seeing younger consumers come into the category. But the main thing that’s changed is the mentality. Usage has completely changed into everyday healthier products like smoothies, toppings for oatmeal, salads, yogurt, and snacking instead of for desserts and baking – something that you’d buy once or twice a year in a holiday recipe”.

According to the same article, this increase in volume and penetration has made frozen fruit the #1 fastest growing category within frozen.

Beyond comfort foods and fruits and veggies, there are some newer entrants to the category who are combining value, convenience and freshness with hip, millennial-friendly options, like Luvo. With the help of a few MVPs like Derek Jeter and Russell Wilson, Luvo is bringing simple, wholesome entrees, breakfasts, flatbreads and burritos to the health-minded consumer at a great value. Something we can totally get behind.

Frozen foods have always gotten a bad rap. I’m excited to see frozen get the “close to fresh” credit it deserves.  Who knows what will happen next in health food marketing!