New research results compiled by Datassential show frozen foods are an essential ingredient for foodservice businesses in the United States, with nearly ubiquitous use by operators of all types. However, operators are hungry for innovation.
“Frozen has a strong foothold at foodservice, with even more opportunity for growth ahead,” said American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) President and CEO Alison Bodor.
Conducted on behalf of the Arlington, Virginia-based trade association, the study is the first to explore operator attitudes and perceptions about frozen foods, purchase drivers and uses, and identify how manufacturers and distributors can most effectively meet operator needs and strengthen demand for frozen food in the foodservice sector. Datassential based its findings on a survey of 426 commercial and non-commercial operators.
Overall, the category delivers on operators’ need for quality, taste and consistency. Additionally, those surveyed cited long shelf life, year-round availability, convenience, ease of preparation, product consistency, reduced preparation time, and affordability/value as the top benefits of frozen foods.
Other key findings include:
- 89% of operators purchase frozen foods and beverages.
- Roughly half (47%) of operators’ yearly purchases are frozen products.
- Staples such as meats/poultry and potatoes lead the category in purchases, followed by vegetables.
These results are consistent with findings from AFFI’s groundbreaking Power of Frozen retail study in 2019, which showed strong consumer loyalty to frozen food.
“Conducting these studies back-to-back has revealed several important insights and similarities,” said Bodor. “Both retail consumers and operators turn to frozen for convenience and ease of preparation. Consumers, however, show a higher degree of interest in frozen compared to foodservice operators, likely because innovations in retail products have outpaced foodservice.”
Hungry for Category Innovation
Despite the frozen category’s high penetration in foodservice, potential for growth remains. Operators expressed interest in category innovation such as:
- Greater flavor variety with enhanced quality and textures.
- Frozen products that provide labor savings (such as fully prepared frozen items, in addition to understanding the role of frozen in scratch cooking).
- Packaging to address storage limitations and reduce food waste, such as resealable, bulk bags.
“This research reinforces that frozen foods play a vital role in foodservice,” said Bodor. “Category innovation will encourage operators to leverage frozen to meet the consumer demand for convenient, high-quality meals that cover every meal occasion.”