Conagra Brands: Uncovers Hottest Frozen Food Trends

Chicago / IL. (cag) Globally inspired flavors, evolving use of kitchen appliances, and a surge in breakfast foods are just some of the emerging trends identified in «Future of Frozen Food 2024», the inaugural, comprehensive, data-driven report from ConAgra Brands Inc. that examined how the USD 78 billion(1) United States (U.S.) frozen food market may evolve in 2024. «Future of Frozen Food 2024» leveraged Conagra Brands’ demand science expertise, combined with robust sales data from NielsenIQ, in-home consumption behaviors from Circana’s «National Eating Trends», and in-depth social media trend predictors from Black Swan Data to identify five trends in the U.S. frozen food department.

«The frozen food industry, which began with our own Clarence Birdseye over a century ago, will continue to evolve with product innovation, flavor experimentation and changes to how and when people want to enjoy frozen food,» said Bob Nolan, senior vice president of demand science at Conagra Brands. «Unlike conventional consumer surveys or online polls, we leveraged our Demand Science team to dive deep into data and other insights, unearthing tastes and experiences for the year ahead.»

2024 Emerging Trends

A collection of sales data and insights on food consumption and preparation helped identify five trends driving frozen food innovation and growth in 2024, including:

  • A Taste of Global Cuisine: Historically, more conventional «meat-and-potatoes» and fewer bold flavors shaped frozen food aisles. Today, consumers are being exposed to a broader set of global flavors and cuisines. Asian-inspired foods, such as Indian and Korean BBQ, are rapidly influencing food preferences(1), as well as global cuisine related social media trends in 2024.
  • Frozen Foods Rising and Shining at Breakfast: The «most important meal of the day» is increasingly becoming a hot time of the day for frozen food consumption. Frozen croissant sandwiches, breakfast burritos and biscuit sandwiches are among the most popular items driving growth. Frozen breakfast sandwiches alone now account for USD 2.3 billion(1) in sales. Time savings, variety, and both indulgent and healthy morning-time options are driving growth.
  • Big Appetites for Bites and Mini Portions: Small in size but big on flavor, this frozen space has surged thanks to growing options which mirror increased snacking culture. Food producers are promoting bites and minis for portion control, healthier options, and quick satisfaction. In the past year alone recipes for bites and minis were included in more than three million internet searches(2).
  • Fun and Convenient Kids Meals: Frozen foods that kids enjoy and are easy for parents to prepare have seen significant growth. Kid-friendly frozen food now generates more than USD 248 million in annual sales, up 122 percent over the past four years(1). Beyond convenience, taste and growing variety, families leverage frozen foods to help control food budgets and reduce food waste.
  • The Air Fryer’s Influence on Food Prep: The report notes air fryer ownership has jumped 27 points since 2020.(3) As a result, the number of frozen foods with air-frying instructions has jumped 90 percent in the past four years.(1) Air-fryer preparation often saves time, can be a healthier food prep option and emits less heat for year-round cooking.

«Americans increasingly want new, exciting and unique frozen food flavors,» said Nolan, «These trends point to the vast possibilities for continued innovations.»

US Frozen Food Snapshot

The U.S. is by far the world’s largest frozen food marketplace.(4) Eight in 10 Americans choose frozen food at least once weekly, and most consume them about four times each week.(5) More than half of Americans have frozen food on hand, especially vegetables, and nearly half now own at least one secondary freezer.(3) The new report found that prepared foods (including meals, handhelds, and appetizers), desserts, and seafood are the three largest categories by dollar share. The report also examined some generational differences in frozen food preferences and habits, including those among Gen Z, Millennials, Boomers, Gen X, and «empty nesters» and senior couples.

About the Future of Frozen Food 2024

The Future of Frozen Food 2024 is a first-of-its-kind report from Conagra, going beyond traditional consumer surveys and online polls and instead leveraging Conagra’s cutting-edge demand science and insights expertise. The report includes robust sales data from NielsenIQ, Black Swan Data’s analysis of 120 million+ social media conversations, as well as multiple other sources to identify key trends. Together, they shaped a comprehensive, data-driven look at the future of the nearly USD 78 billion U.S. frozen food department.(1) Report research and data spans the past four years, including the most recent NielsenIQ data through 11|2023. Future of Frozen Food 2024 can be reviewed in its entirety on Conagra’s website.

  1. Conagra calculation based on data reported by NIQ through NielsenIQ Discover for the Frozen department for 52 weeks ending 12/02/23 for the Total US xAOC + Conv according to the NIQ standard product hierarchy. Copyright © 2024, Nielsen Consumer LLC.
  2. Similarweb U.S. search engine data (desktop + mobile search volume) through November 2023.
  3. Circana, LLC, Kitchen Audit, 2020 and 2023.
  4. Euromonitor International data as of 12/1/2023. Market sizing includes all frozen categories.
  5. Circana, LLC, National Eating Trends: Sourced In-Home/Retail. Data for year ending October 2023.