by Peter Kusnic
March 10, 2021
2020 was a fine year for ice cream and other frozen food items in grocery stores, as consumers found themselves nesting at home more than ever before during the COVID-19 pandemic:
The spike in consumer frozen food sales in 2020 corresponded with a 5% increase in demand for related packaging from 2019 levels, according to a new Freedonia Group analysis. Additionally, heightened sales of frozen foods are expected to carry forward beyond the pandemic – supporting packaging demand – as consumers become increasingly accustomed to the convenience of frozen foods and as they become more familiar with the quality and variety of frozen dinners, entrées, and other available items.
Which types of packaging benefitted most from these trends, and what are their prospects for the long term? Below, we highlight some of the key findings from our research.
Demand for frozen food tubs, cups, and bowls – the most used packaging type for ice cream, as well as for premium desserts like gelato – grew at a slightly above average rate in 2020, and is expected to remain strong throughout the pandemic as demand for frozen desserts remains elevated.
Additionally, demand growth for frozen food bowls will continue to benefit from the rapidly rising popularity of single-serving, ready-to-heat frozen specialties such as frozen dinners and breakfast food bowls due to their:
A caveat to bowls’ rapid growth, however, is that frozen food bowls are most widely used in applications where the contents are intended to be mixed together (e.g., curries, stir-fry, pasta dishes, soups, stews, risottos). Bowls are less amenable to compartmentalization without additional packaging than trays, which can easily be pre-formed with compartments. As a result, bowls will not make strong inroads over other rigid packaging such as trays in applications where separation of foods is required.
Pouches (including flat and stand-up types) will continue to be the fastest growing frozen food packaging type through 2024 due to their performance, source reduction, and resealability advantages, with gains coming at the expense of both bags and boxes.
Solid opportunities for stand-up pouches will be driven by such factors as their superior graphics capabilities, tear resistance, freezer burn protection, and microwavability. Other factors driving demand for stand-up pouches include:
Stand-up pouches see more extensive use with products such as frozen chicken wings, nuggets, and sides. Stand-up types are expected to find increased growth opportunities among higher value, premium frozen foods, where suppliers hope to attract consumers based on enhanced billboard space and visibility in store freezers. Such food items include:
Negative perceptions about the sustainability of plastic have increased interest in eco-friendly alternative packaging materials, including paper, molded pulp, and bioplastics. These value-added materials are especially popular with high-end frozen food brands emphasizing healthfulness and environmental responsibility (which often go hand-in-hand in the clean-label market). For example:
In addition, many companies – including major frozen food brands and large grocery chains – have pledged to meet specific sustainability goals through the increased use of recycled post-consumer content in their packaging products. Such pledges will continue to reshape the material mix in the frozen food packaging industry in the years to come.
Want to Learn More?
Frozen Food Packaging is now available from the Freedonia Group.
About the Author:
Peter Kusnic is a Content Writer with The Freedonia Group, where he researches and writes studies focused on an array of industries.
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