Table of Contents Hide
- A Brief History of Frozen Foods
- Facts and Statistics on Consumption of Frozen Foods in the United States
- United States Consumption of Frozen Foods
- The State of the Frozen Foods Industry in the Pandemic and Post-Pandemic
- Frozen Foods: Things to Remember
- Frozen Foods: Pros and Cons
- Frozen Foods: FAQs
Frozen Foods are among the most sought-after products in the world today because they aren’t just practical and super convenient, but also often tasty and allow you to always have a good supply of food at home.
They are the perfect go-to products for those who do not have time to go to the supermarket or grocery every day – and in today’s time, that is almost always all of us since they can be preserved for longer periods without suffering much on quality and overall taste.
Do you enjoy eating frozen foods? Are you wondering if they have the same nutritional properties as their fresh counterparts? What are its advantages and disadvantages? Worry not. We are here to answer all that and more. Here is everything you need to know about frozen foods.
A Brief History of Frozen Foods
The concept of freezing foods to prolong their edibility dates back to as early as 3,000 B.C. Historians believe that Romans used compressed snow to secure their food for later consumption.
Several millennia later, in 1924, a trader by the name of Clarence-Birdseye found a way to freeze food that aimed to preserve them for longer while still keeping most of its taste. This is the freezing method that has stuck with us until now, barring the improvements made throughout the years.
Soon, this became an industry in itself, thus creating the frozen foods industry.
Frozen foods are manufactured foods preserved using several varying freezing methods. Nowadays, it is common to see supermarkets or even your neighborhood grocery allot a sizable section of their store on frozen foods.
These frozen food sections are then divided into several subcategories, including frozen dinner, frozen pizza, frozen french fries, frozen breakfast sandwiches, frozen snacks, frozen appetizers, desserts, and many more.
Freezing foods is an easy, quick, and convenient way of preservation. Not only does it prolong foods’ lifespan, but it also manages to retain an optimum level of their original texture, color, and flavor. Not to mention keeping its nutritional content intact.
This makes it so that freezing is widely considered the ultimate food preservation method. And today, frozen foods are an established component of everyday life. So much so that it is now hard to imagine life without them.
Facts and Statistics on Consumption of Frozen Foods in the United States
The frozen foods industry has thrived despite being saddled with an unfair, misconception-riddled reputation of being nothing more than processed junk food designed to appear like conventional meals. Many thought of it as but novelty food products that were only there to gather ice in the family freezer, never to be served at the dining table unless desperate.
However, frozen foods have recently emerged from the tall shadow of fresh produce.
In the United States, people are now warming up to the concept of frozen foods as viable meal replacements, especially now in the age where everyone is seemingly always on the move. Many now realize that these frozen alternatives aren’t just there to provide convenience in time of need; they can also carry a nutritional wallop comparable, if not better, to their canned and fresh counterparts.
And with that, let us now take a look at the impact of the frozen foods industry in the United States, particularly its consumption.
United States Consumption of Frozen Foods
Formerly known as ‘TV Dinner’ – coined by Gerry Thomas in the 1950s – the frozen food market has changed significantly over the past decade. Not only have they tremendously improved in terms of quality and taste, but there are now also better-for-you-options being introduced in the market that specifically cater to consumers’ needs.
This includes gluten-free frozen dinners, dietitian-approved frozen meals, high-protein frozen meals, frozen meals for weight-loss, and so much more.
This, and the surge of interest towards ready-to-eat meals driven by the recent pandemic, elevated the shopper traffic in the frozen food aisle busier than ever before.
The Best-selling Frozen Food Items in the U.S.
As per a Statista report, frozen novelties accounted for about 1.6 billion USD in sales last year in the U.S., making it the best-selling frozen food item in the specific region. The frozen novelty category consists of separately packaged frozen desserts, such as fudge sticks, juice bars, and ice cream sandwiches.
They are then closely followed by traditional ice creams, which recorded about 1.42 billion USD, and frozen pizzas which had a total sales of 1.07 billion USD. The sales revenue of processed chicken, shrimp, seafood, fish, handled entrees, and meat averaged between 424 million and 676 million USD.
According to IBISWorld, frozen food production in the U.S. this year is now valued at about 40.7 billion USD. While it has decreased a bit recently, the trend is still looking upward and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
The Companies that Dominated the Frozen Food Sector
The report also mentioned Nestle USA as the most significant player in the particular sector, being a present manufacturer for almost every single product category. Take, for example, the company’s frozen pizza segment.
The Statista report notes that Nestle USA recorded total sales of over 2.3 billion USD in 2021 alone. Apart from Nestle USA, frozen aisles in the U.S. usually also carry brands like DiGiorno for frozen pizza products, Stouffer’s for frozen dinner products, and Nestle Drumstick for frozen novelties.
Here are the top frozen food companies/brands in the United States this 2023 along with their specialty:
|Brand/Company Name||Frozen Foods Specialty||Noteworthy Trait|
|Stouffer’s (under Nestle)||Pasta Products||Over a hundred years of producing high-quality food products|
|Tyson Foods||Chicken Nuggets Chicken Strips|
|Has several successful frozen brands under it; further enhancing its success|
|Prioritizes using high-quality ingredients to provide convenient healthy food alternatives|
|Hot Pockets (under Nestle)||Hot Pockets||Its original product became a worldwide phenomenon and is now one of the most sought-after frozen product|
|Lean Cuisine (under Nestle)||Diet-Friendly Meals||Commonly used on diet plans centered around frozen foods; helps consumers lose weight|
|Marie Callender’s||Desserts||If you love pies; you’d certainly fall for their products|
|Hungry Man||Heavy-loaded Meals||Targets a certain niche and runs away with it; uses the old-school approach in frozen foods|
As you may see, three of the top brands leading the frozen food industry today all came from the Nestle megacorporation – solidifying its undisputed hold over the industry.
If you want to know more about each of the companies/brands you see above, you should check our article that dives deeper into the topic right here.
Surprisingly, average consumer spending on frozen meals in the U.S. plummeted to its lowest in a long while in 2021, with average consumers spending only about 46.5 USD a year on it. This is almost half the over 70 USD/year spent on the same sector from 2007 to 2008.
While several factors can be attributed to this sudden downfall in consumer spending towards frozen goods, many believe the principal reason for it to be the general downturn of sales towards everything because of the pandemic.
Although frozen meals were in the downturn then, consumer spending on healthier frozen fruits shot up significantly, growing as much as 20% from the previous year. Total sales of frozen pizzas in the U.S. jumped with it as well.
As per the report, DiGiorno pizza sold over 265 million USD last 2020. This just reinforces that no matter the circumstance, U.S. people just love to get their pizzas!
Manufacturers have also made a point to increase their investment in the research and development of frozen foods, perhaps seeing the continually-growing demand in the specific sector. As a result of the strengthening of frozen food distribution, market growth also grew immensely.
Lastly, consumers are also found to be devoting a larger share of their time to leisure activities and sports more than ever, thus, creating the demand for convenient, time-saving foods.
And what better to satiate that need than frozen foods and snacks? With consumers expected to become even busier with leisure, sports, and work in the coming years, the opportunities in the frozen foods industry seem endless.
The State of the Frozen Foods Industry in the Pandemic and Post-Pandemic
The frozen foods industry received a significant boost in the pandemic era. A Forbes article notes that US frozen sales dollars rose as high as 21% from the year before the world was subjected to the pandemic to $65.1 billion, while unit sales jumped as much as 13.3%.
This is largely in part because of the numerous lockdowns the world was put into, forcing the majority of us to eat at home. In the United States alone, people who consume frozen foods daily or indulge in them every few days leaped from 35% in 2018 to 39% in 2020.
Another major player in the skyrocketing of the industry in the pandemic era was the consumer behavior change of opting more for online purchases rather than personally going to stores – after all, they couldn’t freely go out back then. Almost half of all households in the US (42%) at that time bought frozen foods online, almost doubling the rate of such back in 2018 (23%).
To the credit of the frozen foods industry, this time is when they also started focusing on making their product offerings more nutritious and generally healthier.
Now that the pandemic has seemingly sailed its course and is now gone, frozen food sales returned to the ground and have significantly slowed down. That being said, as we have already established above, the industry is still thriving and is still projected to have positive results in the next few years.
Frozen Foods: Things to Remember
While handling frozen foods isn’t much of a challenge at all, there are still some things that you should always pay attention to when doing so. Here are some things to remember when handling frozen foods.
The proper methods of thawing frozen foods
Food safety agencies recommend three proper methods for thawing frozen foods: using a microwave, inside the refrigerator, and in cold water. These methods all have a specific combination of temperature control and thawing time that you should always be mindful of to pull the method off properly.
- Using a microwave – is the fastest food thawing method among the three. Recommended method when short in time. Food thawed using the microwave must be cooked immediately. While the fastest method, food thawed using this method may have uneven results depending on their shape.
- Inside the refrigerator – is the safest and most recommended food thawing method. It involves putting the frozen food inside the refrigerator which has a lower temperature setting than the freezer. Takes considerable amount of time, some foods may even take a whole day to thaw using this method. Foods thawed inside the refrigerator can be refrozen without the risk of accidental spoilage or contamination by bacteria.
- In cold water – involves putting the frozen food inside a sealed bag and either submerging it in cold water or putting it in running water itself. One disadvantage of thawing food in cold water is that it is not economically sound. To some, doing so is just way too wasteful, especially if you do so via running water.
Related Article: Frozen Foods: How to Spice Them Up and Make Them More Interesting
Frozen foods are safe to eat even after expiration date
While the very thought of eating something that is already beyond its labeled expiration date may be off-putting, it is worth noting that frozen foods are safe for consumption even after their respective expiration dates. Foodborne bacteria do not grow in the freezer – freezing suspends the growth of bacteria and, thus, keeps foods safe from it. This means that no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat.
The longer frozen foods are kept; the lower their quality gets
Although frozen foods remain safe to eat indefinitely as long as they are kept frozen, note that the longer frozen foods are kept; the lower their quality gets. This is because of freezer burn: the loss of moisture on frozen foods. Freezer burn happens when meat left in your freezer for too long starts to lose moisture and appears discolored or faded. Meat that has suffered from freezer burn usually tastes very bland as a result of quality degradation.
How long you can keep frozen food in the freezer
While food items don’t spoil in freezing temperatures, they degrade in quality the longer you freeze them. Here is a short list of the common foods and how long they will maintain their freshness and quality inside a freezer at the recommended setting of 0 degrees Fahrenheit:
|Food Product||Length of Storage in Freezer|
|Fruits and Vegetables||8 to 12 months|
|Raw or Ground Beef and Pork||3 to 4 months|
|Whole Chicken or Turkey||12 months/ 1 year|
|Cured or Processed Meat (Sausages, Bacons, etc.)||1 to 2 months|
|Cooked Fish||4 to 6 months|
|Raw Steaks or Roasts||4 to 12 months|
|Raw Eggs||12 months/ 1 year|
|Typical Frozen Food Products/ TV Dinners||3 to 4 months|
To stay on top of when certain foods go bad in the freezer and for a more comprehensive list just like this, you may refer to our article about how long you can keep frozen food in the freezer by following the link here.
Frozen Foods: Pros and Cons
Here is straightforward table detailing the pros and cons of frozen foods:
|Frozen foods are great time-savers||Frozen foods more often than not don’t taste as good as fresh food|
|Frozen foods are convenient||It has limited variety of frozen dishes|
|They are often cheaper than fresh food||Issues with the cooling chain can lead to health problems|
|Can be helpful on stressful days; perfect after a tiring day’s work||Texture may be altered when freezing food|
|Enables you to precook food and then freeze||Some frozen dishes contain preservatives; others may prove too salty|
|Can prevent the development of bacteria||Frozen foods do not all look pleasing|
|Can reduce food waste||Takes up a chunk of your freezer space|
|Can prove beneficial to restaurants||You may forget your food in the freezer|
|Frozen foods give you flexibility in your meal plan||Usually not diet friendly;usually high in fat and calories|
What we have here is but a small sample of the advantages and disadvantages you can get from consuming frozen foods.
To get a more comprehensive look at the pros and cons of frozen foods, refer to our article titled: Frozen Foods: Major Pros and Cons by following the link here.
Frozen Foods: FAQs
Are frozen foods considered processed foods?
Yes. Frozen foods are indeed processed foods. That being said, frozen foods have come a long way. Gone are the iconic TV dinners of the 1950s that were heavily processed, bland, and top-loaded with calories. Today’s frozen varieties offer tasty, well-rounded entrees that aren’t just easy to prepare but are also brimming with health benefits. In fact, dietitians themselves now have several recommendations for frozen meals that would be good for your health or ongoing diet plan.
What is the difference between frozen foods and fresh foods?
The answer is simple: frozen foods are fresh foods that have undergone freezing to lengthen their storage time and preserve freshness. These products are meant to last longer than fresh foods and are now more often than not pre-cooked and pre-prepared, so you would just have to heat them for a while to safely consume them.
Why are frozen foods cheaper than fresh foods?
Frozen foods almost always have a lower price than fresh products, and many would automatically assume this is because they have lower quality. However, that is not the case whatsoever. The price of fresh foods is affected by constant price changes depending on the season when they are sold, while frozen foods are always sold at the same price. Simply put, fresh products may vary in price, while frozen ones have a constant price point.
Can you refreeze foods after defrosting?
Defrosting and then refreezing food products can indeed be done safely but isn’t recommended. In fact, many would argue that it should never be done in the first place. Freezing forms small ice crystals that become water when thawing or defrosting and, if they are refrozen, increase in volume and may further break down cell membranes. This can lead to the food degrading in quality by a large margin or even going bad.
Are frozen foods filled with preservatives?
The frozen food industry is now trying its hardest to distance itself from its bad reputation back then as nothing but ‘glorified junk food.’ While most frozen foods have already succeeded in doing so, some sadly do not. Some still have overwhelming amounts of hazardous preservatives added to them.
Do frozen foods contain salt?
Salt is an ingredient you should always expect to find in frozen foods. More often than not, frozen products contain more salt than fresh goods. With that said, it is always advisable to pay attention and read the labels of the frozen food products you pick up before purchasing. And if they already have large amounts of salt, it may be wise not to add more when cooking or preparing it.
Frozen foods are now not only in demand for the convenience and accessibility they offer but also for the health quotient they provide. Thus, making them all the more appealing to this generation, where everyone is seemingly always on the move, barely making time for cooking. And with the growing selection of healthier options, such as gluten-free, vegan, and organic frozen foods, one can just imagine how big the industry could get a few years from now.
After reading this article, you should now have a much deeper understanding of what frozen foods really are and how they affect and will affect our lives moving forward.