Since its peak in 2020 and 2021, cooking at home in the United States has decreased slightly, but 64% of Americans are continuing to do so to save money and control their budget. After gaining confidence in the kitchen during the disruptive Covid-19 lockdown, folks are looking for inspiration to DIY healthier-for-them meals at home – preferably with ingredients from deals in the frozen and refrigerated food aisles. They are also relying more on online grocery shopping and social media for inspiration on how to use those ingredients.
The Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-headquartered National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) released these findings as part of its latest “Eating at Home” industry report. The report is the culmination of a large scale research study conducted to better understand changing grocery shopping habits.
In gathering data, researchers surveyed more than 12,000 people; and to gain in-depth, everyday insights, twenty consumers from across the USA welcomed researchers into their homes and to their local grocery stores. Additionally, a large scale analysis of news and social media content helped identify and understand consumer perspectives surrounding frozen and refrigerated foods over the past 18 months up to mid-August 2023.
“This is the largest research undertaking from the NFRA on behalf of the frozen and refrigerated food industry, with the results yielding directional insights for food manufacturers on consumer trends,” said NFRA President and CEO Jeff Rumachik.
While the entire report is available to read by members of the industry, trends from the report are available now for the public to peruse, some of which are summarized below.
Americans are prioritizing “healthier-for-me” options, especially as they gain control over what ingredients go into their meals.
Taste or flavor (66%), quality of groceries (65%) and healthiness (49%) determine what consumers are putting in their carts.
• Nearly 3 in 5 consumers (59%) say they began cooking at home using precut frozen fruits and vegetables to save on preparation time; using frozen main dishes that are easier to prepare, while making their own side dishes; or using frozen fruit in recipes for smoothies or other treats sometime within the past three years.
Convenient and Cost-Effective Options
Convenience doesn’t mean people are just putting frozen dinners in the oven. They’re making some dishes from scratch while using frozen foods and dairy aisle finds to make home cooked meals complete. As shoppers continue to explore new tastes and recipes, they’re also taking notice of increased variety within the frozen and dairy aisles – as well as hunting for deals to help their budget.
• 45% of consumers rely on air fryers and 43% use slow cookers to cook and prepare food. As of September 2023, there were 9.7 billion views of videos tagged with #airfryer (Media analysis, Atomik Research 2023).
Technology’s Growing Role
Technology and social media are having a major influence in shifting how and what Americans eat. Consumers are adopting online grocery shopping and looking to social media for cooking inspiration to make eating at home more convenient or to fill in the gaps when they don’t have the skillset for making a recipe.
• More than half (54%) of consumers are learning about food and cooking through YouTube and other online video sharing and social media platforms.
• A third of those surveyed prefer to shop for groceries online because automated recommended purchases / “programmatic reminders” help ensure that they never forget the ingredients needed for recipes.
For more information about the research and its methodology, to read the full report, or to contact NFRA, visit nfraweb.com/research.