Humans have used freezing as a means of safely preserving food for thousands of years, but it took the technological genius of Clarence Birdseye in the 1920s to harness the preserving power of freezing food by making the process practical. According to the Frozen Food Foundation, this pioneer’s development of the double-belt freezer recreated nature’s freezing process and expanded its potential by moving it beyond the limits of climate and season, the foundation reports.
“Building on this ability to freeze food anywhere, any time of year,” the Foundation notes, “Birdseye introduced the first line of frozen foods for sale to the public in 1930 and the frozen food industry was born.”
Key Trends to Watch
Having withstood the test of time, frozen foods remain a popular choice for consumers in search of a viable, affordable alternative to fresh options. Take a look at some of the trends that are shaping the industry this year. Here are six to be aware of be aware of as we progress further into the New Year:
- The frozen food industry has a major impact on the U.S. economy. Based on the American Frozen Food Institute’s (AFFI) most recent numbers, the frozen food industry:
- Employs 670,000 individuals nationwide
- Has a current market value of over $53 billion
- Provides $35 billion in income to those workers
- Makes $7.2 billion in federal tax payments annually
- Makes $4.1 billion in state and local tax payments every year
- And the buck doesn’t stop there… AFFI says that due to the capital-intensive nature of frozen food production, firms in this sector buy many goods and services from other sectors of the nation’s economy. For example, growers provide the fruit, vegetables, and other fresh foods and frozen food companies then use refrigerated transportation, rapid truck, rail, ship, and air transport and refrigeration and other machinery to create frozen foods. Planning these logistics requires management consulting and supply chain experts, AFFI points out, and freezing and preserving these foods requires specialty machinery, specialty buildings, and electricity to run the refrigeration equipment. “All of these sectors – from the growers to the electric utility – benefit from U.S. frozen food production.”
- Nestle USA is leading the charge. The most significant player in the frozen food segment is Nestlé USA, which manufactures products for almost every single category, according to Statista. Sales of Nestlé USA in the frozen pizza segment, for example, amounted to $411.71 million (USD) in 2016. In addition, retailers’ frozen aisles are carrying brands like DiGiorno (pizza), Stouffer’s (frozen dinner), or Nestlé Drumstick (frozen novelties).
- Frozen continues to offer unsurpassed value for today’s consumers. By their very nature, frozen foods are often lower in cost-per-serving—and have a much greater shelf life—than their refrigerated counterparts. Frozen fruits and vegetables can be more easily portioned and stored for later use, thus reducing the risk of spoilage and food waste while further increasing consumer value.
- No one wants to cook anymore. Over the past 50 years, as the amount of time Americans spent in meal preparation has steadily declined, frozen foods have remained a convenient staple, according to the Frozen Food Foundation, adapting its packaging and products to better accommodate new developments, such as the microwave oven.
- Consumers see frozen foods as a healthy choice. Health-conscious Americans have discovered the nutritional advantages of frozen vegetables and fruits to be easy-to-use key components to a healthy family menu. “Waistline watchers have found a friend in the numerous low-fat frozen food offerings,” the Frozen Food Foundation points out, “while the economically conscious continue to value the diversity of frozen food possibilities that tempt the taste buds without breaking the bank.”