Declining Sales in the Frozen Food Aisle

A frozen food aisle in the grocery store.
Frozen food brands have seen a dramatic decline in sales. Source: Google Images.

Consumers are increasingly moving away from purchasing frozen foods. Frozen foods are often viewed as unhealthy and described as foods containing high sodium, sugar, fat, calories, or preservatives. In the past few years, major food processing companies, such as ConAgra, Kellogg, and Nestle, have noticed a considerable decline in sales of their frozen food lines. Marketers of these brands are attempting to overcome consumers’ negative perceptions, created directly by competitors, such as Wendy’s, who uses the tagline “fresh, never frozen.”

In the wake of slow sales, several leading frozen food producers launched a $30 million three year effort called “Frozen. How Fresh Stays Fresh,” in 2014. The campaign included not only TV ads but also digital and print ads. Some of the information found on the campaign website includes:

  • Information about choosing frozen foods
  • Rectified frozen food myths
  • Current news pertaining to frozen foods
  • The supporters; leading frozen food producers and retailers, who promote the quality, variety and healthfulness of frozen foods

Through promotion of frozen foods using the “Frozen. How Fresh Stays Fresh” campaign, marketers are hoping to change the way consumers feel about frozen food by explaining its benefits and qualities.

Lean Cuisine, a large frozen meal brand of Nestle that focuses on weight-loss marketing, has been steadily losing popularity. In the past two years, sales have dropped 20%, to about $800 million. As a strategy to revive the brand, Lean Cuisine is overhauling its brand to move away from “diet marketing” and calorie counting to focus more on modern eating and health trends. Additionally, Lean Cuisine is targeting women and seeks to build an emotional bond with female consumers. An ad campaign expected to launch in July, titled “Feed Your Phenomenal” will exhibit real women telling and showing consumers how they portray strength in their everyday lives. Also, just this week, Lean Cuisine launched a social media campaign “WeighThis,” which features women, who instead of weighing themselves are “weighing” their personal accomplishments (see the video, below).

Much of the driving force in the decline in frozen food can be attributed to consumers between 20 and 30 years old, who have a heighted awareness of nutrition and more intensely scrutinize the current food industry. ConAgra, owner of popular brands such as Marie Calendars, Healthy Choice, Alexia, and Bertolli, has tried to revitalize its brands through pushing frozen products that are more “real,” are higher quality, more homemade, and are produced from ingredients closer to the source. However, the appeal of frozen foods may be lost by the millennial generation who wants everything “fresh.”

As mentioned by the Wall Street Journal, the frozen food industry does not adequately communicate the benefits of frozen food. Consumers are spending more time cooking at home and want to know all the ingredients in their food. However, many consumers do not realize the benefits that frozen food can have, such as freezing can preserve nutrients better than fresh produce sitting out in the grocery store. Frozen food brands hope to revitalize the fading frozen food industry by changing the marketing strategy and message to consumers.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • Brainstorm some ways frozen foods can market their products to appeal to consumers.
  • Do you think consumers will rethink the quality of frozen foods if ingredients and packaging are changed? How should frozen food companies appeal better to demanding customers who think that frozen food is not “fresh”?
  • What reactions will consumers have to the new ad campaign, Feed Your Phenomenal?