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Consumer Research

Confluence of Trends Heat Up Frozen & Refrigerated Foods

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The National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association recently published its “State of the Industry Report” providing broad-based insights showing how the frozen and refrigerated foods categories are attracting shoppers, driving shopping trips, building shopping basket dollars and delivering sales.

 The study shows the industry is clearly connecting with shoppers, generating combined sales of $125 billion in the 52 weeks ending June 29, 2019. Both dollar and unit sales increased as well, demonstrating renewed excitement about the wide assortment of freshly prepared, frozen and dairy products available.

The prepared foods category showed the most noteworthy growth. With annual sales of $592.5 million, prepared potatoes had a strong 6.5% CAGR and 6.5% year-over-year growth. Breakfast meals/combos performed remarkably well with 59.7% CAGR and a 118.7% growth increase, while complete meals turned in a 5.8% CAGR and a 17.5% increase versus the previous year.

Converging with the impressive growth of the prepared foods category is the surging consumer demand for more sustainable packaging. In survey after survey, consumers are saying they not only want more sustainably produced and packaged products, but they are also willing to pay more for them. A recent study from the New York University Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) confirmed that shoppers aren’t just talking about sustainability – they are following their conscience and buying more sustainable goods.

81% of respondents say that it's extremely or very important that companies implement programs to improve the environment.

The research found that sustainability-marketed consumer packaged goods (CPGs) accounted for 50.1% of market growth from 2013-2018, despite representing only 16.6% of the CPG market. The data also showed that sustainable products have more than a 20% category share in many food categories and grew 5.6 times faster than those not promoted as sustainable. Most notably, sustainability-marketed products in the frozen dinner category outpaced the rest of the category’s growth by 130% between 2013-2018.

30% of global respondents are willing to pay a premium for products that deliver on social responsibility claims.

Consumers are clearly voting with their dollars – spending on healthy prepared foods that align with their values. At the same time, brands that can help consumers reduce their environmental footprint are in a great position to increase their brand equity and consumer loyalty. Sonoco, recently named to Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies, is at the forefront of packaging innovations designed to do just that. We’ve recently collaborated with an innovative company, Tellus Products, LLC, whose products and processes are a model of sustainability.

73% of shoppers in a recent Nielsen survey said they would definitely, or probably, change their consumption habits to reduce their environmental impact.

Tellus Products, a packaging company based in Belle Glade, Fla. and jointly owned by Florida Crystals Corporation, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and American Sugar Refining, has recently collaborated with Sonoco to introduce 100% U.S.-made, sugarcane-based fiber bowls and trays for refrigerated and frozen prepared foods. Branded as Natrellis™, the PFAS-free, sugarcane-based fiber bowls and trays provide a natural alternative to more traditional rigid plastic packages used by most of the refrigerated and frozen food products on the market.

86% of consumers said it was slightly to extremely important that product packaging be made from agricultural fibers like sugarcane, an annually renewable resource.

Natrellis will debut as the primary package used by PRIMAL KITCHEN® for its new line of frozen bowls and skillet meals, which are currently available at select retailers and coming soon this spring and summer to HyVee, Publix, Natural Grocers, Whole Foods Market and more. The new PRIMAL KITCHEN frozen line, which features meals made with grass-fed beef or cage-free chicken and a variety of vegetables, is their first launch into the prepared meals space. PRIMAL KITCHEN brand focuses on delivering delicious condiments, dressings, marinades, avocado oils and pantry staples that incorporate fats, simple ingredients and uncompromising flavor.

One of the first natural packaging options made from U.S.-grown sugarcane fiber – an annually renewable crop – Natrellis combines decades of experience in packaging design, materials science and responsible sugarcane farming practices. After the sugarcane milling process is complete, Tellus upcycles the leftover sugarcane fiber and uses it to form the chlorine-free, molded fiber Natrellis packaging. Tellus’ manufacturing facility is in the USA, adjacent to a sugar mill in the heart of one of America’s most abundant farming regions, and runs on renewable energy from biomass and solar, making it an extremely efficient and environmentally responsible operation.

Natrellis has been thoughtfully crafted for consumers of single-serve meals with the flexibility of cook-in performance for easy preparation in both conventional and microwave ovens. The portfolio includes cook-in trays and bowls, a variety of Sonoco printed and clear rigid plastic, domed and film lidding options – plus commercial field service and development teams to help manufacturers seamlessly integrate Natrellis packaging into their production lines. What’s more, Natrellis packaging creates a great brand story to reinforce your brand’s commitment to the environment – naturally.