National Consumers League

Throwing away the stigma about frozen foods

By NCL intern Melissa Cuddington

Over the last decade, an influx of farmer’s markets and organic certified products has accompanied increased demand for fresh food and healthy living among American consumers. This trend is partly responsible for the stigma surrounding frozen food in the grocery store as always second-best to fresh foods.

This movement towards organic, local, and fresh products has overshadowed consumers looking for more affordable, healthy, and convenient options at mealtimes. With a significant 43 percent of millennials buying frozen foods last year, this sector of the food industry is worth looking at in depth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 10 percent of Americans consume the recommended daily amount of vegetables. This under-consumption of a crucial food group high in vitamins and minerals has given the frozen food industry a much needed boost to re-brand its products, shifting the focus to taste and nutrition.

According to a Food Dive article, increasing consumer interest in frozen foods has coincided with “quick-freeze technology” becoming more commonplace among food manufacturers and retailers. A “quick freezer” is a specialized product that decreases the amount of freezing time, while also increasing production. This new technology is more effective at “keeping nutrients and flavor in the products,” making it a more enjoyable consumer experience.

This improved technology, along with the industry responding to consumer calls for increased convenience and nutrition has led to an uptick in the frozen food market share. According to Food Dive, frozen foods are seeing an increase in sales, with category volume growth up 1 percent from the 12 weeks ending March 10 (RBC Capital Markets).

According to a recent Washington Post article, frozen food manufacturers have increasingly produced and marketed vegetables such as cauliflower and spiralized veggies, both of which are healthy, low-calorie alternatives to carb-rich, much-loved foods such as pasta and potatoes. Not to mention the fact that frozen food is more affordable and convenient when it comes to putting together a healthy meal. Cauliflower provides as a good point of comparison seeing that it has become increasingly popular among consumers at the grocery store. For example, 10 oz. of fresh, organic cauliflower from Kroger costs $3.49, compared to 12 oz. of “meal-ready,” frozen cauliflower for $1.19.  

At the heart of NCL’s food policy mission is the belief that Americans deserve a safe, nutritious, and abundant food supply. This mission includes advocating for access to healthy food at reasonable prices. The nutritious and healthy products that have been developed recently by the frozen food industry provide ample opportunity for consumers to properly nourish their families.

It is about time that American consumers do-away with the negative stigma surrounding frozen foods, seeing that many of these new products are just as healthy, nutritious and significantly more convenient than fresh food – just as millennials are increasingly demanding available frozen food products in grocery stores.

Melissa recently graduated with a Political Science & International Studies degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. She is interning at NCL for the summer before attending law school in the fall.