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Frozen Meals - US - May 2012

In 2011, frozen meals generated an estimated $7.9 billion in total U.S. sales and grew by a microscopic 0.6%. Nonetheless, this was a welcome change from the previous two years of declines. Given the importance of the category to both manufacturers and retailers, both sides will need to work together to maximize potential sales opportunities. From a manufacturing perspective, companies need to develop exciting and innovative products to attract the attention of consumers who have a number of frozen meals alternatives to choose from.

In this report, Mintel evaluates the current state of the frozen meal sector, and where it is headed in the next five years. To a far lesser degree, chilled (refrigerated) meals and shelf-stable meals are also discussed in the context of competitive threats, as well as opportunities (see below for more details regarding refrigerated and shelf-stable meals).

Providing comprehensive analysis, this report addresses the following key topics:

  • How are each of the category’s major segments performing, and what kind of sales can be expected in the future? Which companies and brands are leading overall, and what can be learned from them to promote greater overall success for the category?
  • What are manufacturers doing in terms of innovation to create buzz around the category, and are they focusing on the attributes that matter most to consumers?
  • How are key market drivers, such as the poor economy and rising food prices, impacting the frozen meal market in both the short- and long-term? How will the competitive environment influence frozen meal companies’ decision-making processes in terms of responding to current and future threats?
  • What should frozen meal manufacturers do, and who should they be targeting in the years ahead in order to move the sector back into a growth state?
  • Which marketing strategies make the most sense to implement at a time when marketers are interested in integrating social and traditional media to stay top of mind with consumers, who are increasingly inundated with sales messages from a variety of formats?

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Table of contents

  1. Scope and Themes

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
        • Data sources
          • Sales data
            • Consumer data
              • Advertising creative
                • Acronyms and terms
                  • Acronyms
                    • Terms
                    • Executive Summary

                      • Frozen meal market isn’t seeing sales heat up
                        • Pot pies fastest-growing segment
                          • Census figures add up to opportunities and challenges
                            • Competition present in and outside the home
                              • Supermarkets remain format of choice for frozen meals
                                • Name brands dominate but sector may show signs of fragmentation
                                  • 2012 could be better year if new innovation is an indicator
                                    • Traditional and online marketing both have a place in frozen meals
                                      • Today’s frozen meals consumer
                                      • Insights and Opportunities

                                        • Restaurant-to-retail branding
                                          • Reposition pot pies to create more usage occasions
                                            • Reduce emphasis on “diet” in weight management product names
                                              • Expand into refrigerated meals
                                                • Frozen meals through vending in offices, schools, and other foodservice channels
                                                • Inspire Insights

                                                    • Trend 1: Prove It
                                                      • Trend 2: Cool Vending
                                                      • Market Size and Forecast

                                                        • Key points
                                                          • Frozen meals industry having tough time sustaining meaningful growth
                                                              • Figure 1: Total U.S. retail sales of frozen meals, at current prices, 2006-16
                                                              • Figure 2: Total U.S. retail sales of frozen meals, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2006-16
                                                            • Fan-chart forecast
                                                              • Figure 3: Fan chart forecast of frozen meals, 2006-16
                                                            • Walmart sales
                                                            • Market Drivers

                                                              • Key points
                                                                • Food-at-home prices rising faster than food away from home
                                                                  • Figure 4: Changes in food price indexes, 2009-12
                                                                • Hispanics average highest weekly consumption; Asians favor BFY
                                                                  • Figure 5: Population, by race and Hispanic origin, 2006-16
                                                                • Shrinking household size creates potentially larger target audience
                                                                  • Figure 6: Household size, 2001-11
                                                                • A return to dining out could eat into frozen meal usage occasions
                                                                  • Figure 7: Real disposable income, January 2007-January 2012
                                                                • Manufacturers need to adapt to lower number of households with children
                                                                  • Figure 8: Households, by presence of children, 2001-2011
                                                              • Competitive Context

                                                                • Key points
                                                                  • QSRs’ aggressive pricing, retail prepared food departments may appeal
                                                                    • Figure 9: Impact of the recession on dining out, by age, October 2011
                                                                  • Majority of weekly meals are made from scratch
                                                                    • Leftovers stretch family budget and reduce potential frozen meals usage
                                                                    • Segment Performance

                                                                      • Key points
                                                                        • Single-serve frozen meals account for two thirds of frozen meals’ sales
                                                                          • Figure 10: Total U.S. retail sales of frozen meals, by segment, 2009-11
                                                                      • Segment Performance—Single-serve Frozen Meals

                                                                        • Key points
                                                                          • Segment’s sales below 2006 levels
                                                                            • Figure 11: Total U.S. retail sales of single-serve frozen meals, 2006-16
                                                                        • Segment Performance—Multiserve Frozen Meals

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                            • 2011 sees sales pull back slightly
                                                                                • Figure 12: Total U.S. retail sales and forecast of multiserve frozen meals, at current prices, 2006-16
                                                                            • Segment Performance—Frozen Pot Pies

                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                • Frozen pot pies rise but barely above peak mark set in 2008
                                                                                  • Figure 13: Total U.S. retail sales and forecast of frozen pot pies, at current prices, 2006-16
                                                                              • Retail Channels

                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                  • Supermarkets generate largest share of frozen meal sales
                                                                                    • Figure 14: Total U.S. retail sales of frozen meals, by channel, 2009 and 2011
                                                                                    • Figure 15: Supermarket/food stores sales of frozen meals, at current prices, 2006-11
                                                                                    • Figure 16: U.S. drug store sales of frozen meals, at current prices, 2006-11
                                                                                    • Figure 17: U.S. sales of frozen meals through other retail channels*, at current prices, 2006-11
                                                                                • Retail Channels—Natural Supermarkets

                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                    • Insights
                                                                                      • Sales of frozen meals in the natural channel
                                                                                        • Figure 18: Natural supermarket sales of frozen meals at current prices, 2009-11*
                                                                                        • Figure 19: Natural supermarket sales of frozen meals, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2009-11*
                                                                                      • Natural channel sales of frozen meals by segment
                                                                                        • Figure 20: Natural supermarket sales of frozen meals, by segment, 2009 and 2011*
                                                                                      • Brands of significance
                                                                                        • Organics led by Amy’s
                                                                                          • Figure 21: Natural supermarket sales of frozen meals, by organic claim, 2009 and 2011*
                                                                                        • Natural channel sales of frozen meals by gluten free
                                                                                          • Figure 22: Natural supermarket sales of frozen meals, by gluten-free claim, 2009 and 2011*
                                                                                      • Leading Companies

                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                          • Private label virtually nonexistent in frozen meal category
                                                                                              • Figure 23: Manufacturer FDMx sales of frozen meals in the U.S., 2011 and 2012
                                                                                          • Brand Share—Single-serve Frozen Meals

                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                              • Select weight management brands gaining in sales
                                                                                                • Figure 24: Selected FDMx brand sales of single-serve frozen meals, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                            • Brand Share—Multiserve Frozen Meals

                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                • Nestlé dominates segment despite lack of growth
                                                                                                    • Figure 25: Selected FDMx brand sales of multiserve frozen meals, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                • Brand Share—Frozen Pot Pies

                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                    • ConAgra Foods only manufacturer to produce sales growth
                                                                                                      • Figure 26: Selected FDMx brand sales of frozen pot pies, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                  • Innovations and Innovators

                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                      • Frozen meals greatly outnumber refrigerated meal launches
                                                                                                        • Figure 27: Frozen/refrigerated meal product launches, by storage type, 2007-12*
                                                                                                      • Microwaveable top product claim by a wide margin
                                                                                                        • Figure 28: Frozen/refrigerated meal product launches, by top claims, 2007-12*
                                                                                                      • Top 10 companies account for one third of product launches
                                                                                                        • Figure 29: Frozen/refrigerated meal product launches, by top 10 companies, 2007-12*
                                                                                                      • Top 10 brands a cross section of the category
                                                                                                        • Figure 30: Frozen/refrigerated meal product launches, by top 10 brands, 2007-12*
                                                                                                      • Private label share of introductions continuing to decline
                                                                                                        • Figure 31: Frozen/refrigerated meal product launches, by name brands and private labels, 2007-12*
                                                                                                      • Product innovations
                                                                                                        • Premium
                                                                                                          • Private label
                                                                                                            • BFY
                                                                                                              • Weight management
                                                                                                              • Marketing Strategies

                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                  • Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine campaign tries to show diet foods are in style
                                                                                                                    • Healthy Choice recognizes the new reality of marketing
                                                                                                                      • Birds Eye Voila uses Facebook community to grow fans
                                                                                                                        • TV advertising
                                                                                                                          • Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine
                                                                                                                            • Figure 32: Nestle/Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine, January 2012
                                                                                                                          • Marie Callender’s
                                                                                                                            • Figure 33: ConAgra Foods/Marie Callender’s, September 2011
                                                                                                                          • Bertolli
                                                                                                                            • Figure 34: Unilever/Bertolli, May 2011
                                                                                                                          • Bon Appetit
                                                                                                                            • Figure 35: Schwan’s/Bon Appetit, October 2011
                                                                                                                        • Meal Preparation and Food Attitudes

                                                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                                                            • Young adults aged 18-24 least likely to make meals from scratch
                                                                                                                              • Figure 36: Meals and meal preparation, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                              • Figure 37: Meals and meal preparation, by household size, February 2012
                                                                                                                            • Easy preparation, quality, and nutrition top consumers’ frozen meals criteria
                                                                                                                              • Figure 38: Food attitudes, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                              • Figure 39: Food attitudes, by household income, February 2012
                                                                                                                          • Ready-meal Usage

                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                              • Frozen meals a hot option among U.S. households
                                                                                                                                • Figure 40: Household usage of ready meals, February 2012
                                                                                                                                • Figure 41: Household usage of ready meals, February 2012
                                                                                                                              • Individual meals most popular
                                                                                                                                • Figure 42: Ready-meal usage frequency, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                              • Frozen complete dinners and main courses usage holds steady
                                                                                                                                • Figure 43: Frozen meal usage, January 2007-November 2011
                                                                                                                            • What Matters to Frozen Meal Consumers

                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                • Women show greater interest in BFY attributes than men do
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 44: What matters to frozen meal consumers, by gender, February 2012
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 45: What matters to frozen meal consumers, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 46: What matters to frozen meal consumers, by household income, February 2012
                                                                                                                                • Attitudes Toward and Behavior with Frozen Meals

                                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                                    • Majority of frozen meal users willing to pay more for quality
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 47: Attitudes toward and behavior with frozen meals, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                                    • Frozen meals suffer somewhat from poor nutrition and value perception
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 48: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                                      • Figure 49: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by presence of children in household, February 2012
                                                                                                                                  • Ethnic Food Consumption

                                                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                                                      • Frozen meal users have a taste for Italian, Chinese, and Mexican cuisine
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 50: Ethnic food consumption, February 2012
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 51: Ethnic food consumption, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 52: Ethnic food consumption, by household income, February 2012
                                                                                                                                        • Figure 53: Ethnic food consumption, by presence of children in household, February 2012
                                                                                                                                    • Impact of Race and Hispanic Origin

                                                                                                                                      • Key points
                                                                                                                                        • Whites show the greatest interest in preparing meals from scratch
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 54: Meals and meal preparation, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                        • Frozen/shelf-stable usage consistent among multicultural groups
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 55: Personal usage of ready meals, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                        • Hispanics post highest weekly consumption of frozen/shelf-stable meals
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 56: Ready-meal usage frequency, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                        • Asians seek out BFY frozen meal attributes
                                                                                                                                          • Figure 57: What matters to frozen meal consumers, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                      • Cluster Analysis

                                                                                                                                          • Scratchers
                                                                                                                                            • Demographics
                                                                                                                                              • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                  • Disengagers
                                                                                                                                                    • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                      • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                        • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                          • Frozen Meal Fan Club
                                                                                                                                                            • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                              • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                                • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                                  • Light-using Values
                                                                                                                                                                    • Demographics
                                                                                                                                                                      • Characteristics
                                                                                                                                                                        • Opportunity
                                                                                                                                                                          • Cluster characteristic tables
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 58: Target clusters, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 59: Meals and meal preparation, by clusters, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 60: Personal usage of ready meals, by clusters, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 61: Ready-meal usage frequency, by clusters, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 62: Attitudes toward and behavior with frozen meals, by clusters, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 63: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by clusters, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 64: Food attitudes, by what matters to frozen meal consumers, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                          • Cluster demographic tables
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 65: Target clusters, by gender, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 66: Target clusters, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 67: Target clusters, by household income, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 68: Target clusters, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 69: Target clusters, by presence of children, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                          • Cluster methodology
                                                                                                                                                                          • Custom Consumer Groups

                                                                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                              • Cross-tabbing of frozen meal users provides actionable insights
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 70: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by what matters to frozen meal consumers, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 71: Food attitudes, by what matters to frozen meal consumers, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 72: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by what matters to frozen meal consumers, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 73: Food attitudes, by what matters to frozen meal consumers, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 74: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by attitudes toward and behavior with frozen meals, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 75: Food attitudes, by What matters to frozen meal consumers, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                              • SymphonyIRI/Builders—Key Household Purchase Measures

                                                                                                                                                                                • Frozen dinners/entrées—U.S.
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Overview
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Single-serve frozen dinners/entrées
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Consumer insights on key purchase measures—single-serve frozen dinners/entrées
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Brand map
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 76: Brand map, selected brands of single-serve frozen dinners/entrées, by household penetration, 2011*
                                                                                                                                                                                        • Brand leader characteristics
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Key purchase measures
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 77: Key purchase measures for the top brands of single-serve frozen dinners/entrées, by household penetration, 2011*
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Multiserve frozen dinners/entrées
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Consumer insights on key purchase measures—multiserve frozen dinners/entrées
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Brand map
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 78: Brand map, selected brands of multiserve frozen dinners/entrées buying rate, by household penetration, 2011*
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Brand leader characteristics
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Key purchase measures
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 79: Key purchase measures for the top brands of multiserve frozen dinners/entrées, by household penetration, 2011*
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix—Other Useful Consumer Tables

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 80: Personal usage of ready meals, by household income, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 81: Personal usage of ready meals, by presence of children in household, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 82: Ready-meal usage frequency, by gender, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 83: Ready-meal usage frequency, by household income, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 84: Ready-meal usage frequency, by presence of children in household, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 85: Attitudes toward and behavior with frozen meals, by household income, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 86: Attitudes toward and behavior with frozen meals, by presence of children in household, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 87: Personal usage of ready meals, by age, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 88: Frozen meal usage among teens (aged 12-17), May 2006-June 2011
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 89: Frozen meal usage among kids (aged 5-11), January 2007-November 2011
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 90: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by gender, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 91: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 92: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 93: Attitudes toward frozen meals, by food attitudes, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 94: Ethnic food consumption, by race/Hispanic origin, February 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Appendix—Trade Associations

                                                                                                                                                                                                Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Birds Eye Foods
                                                                                                                                                                                                • ConAgra Foods, Inc
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Food Marketing Institute
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA)
                                                                                                                                                                                                • HJ Heinz Company
                                                                                                                                                                                                • National Frozen and Refrigerated Food Association
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Nestlé USA
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Pinnacle Foods Group Inc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA)
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Unilever USA
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Weight Watchers International Inc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Frozen Meals - US - May 2012

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