From Millennials to Gen Z: The Evolution of Frozen Foods and What Brands Need to Know

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From Millennials to Gen Z: The Evolution of Frozen Foods and What Brands Need to Know

March 17, 2023

Older Gen Z’s are starting families and present the next psychographic puzzle for frozen brands to crack. What kind of frozen morsels will catapult growth with the Gen Z audience? 

The frozen aisle warmed up to the needs of a Millennial audience with premium offerings and disruptive innovation. Frozen food was a stagnant category for a long time. But the rise of premium challenger brands forged an evolution that was amplified during the pandemic. Premium frozen meals with clean ingredients and global flavor profiles sparked innovation and connected with the Millennial consumers’ value set.  In 2021 more than 50% of Millennials said that frozen is equal to or better-for-you than fresh. Older Millennials remain the largest segment — making up 48% of the core frozen food consumer. 

When launching Saffron Road, in 2010, Adnan Durrani–Founder and CEO–says they studied the purchasing behavior of Millennials. They understood that as the Millennial audience grew older, their behaviors and preferences would define success or failure for brands trying to grow with them. They found that Millennials would likely demand more natural foods and be more discerning about their food choices. Discerning palettes and a preference for natural ingredients implied they would also be willing to pay more for premium quality offerings. Saffron Road’s steady growth proved the hypothesis to be right on. Frozen is clearly HOT in the eyes of American consumers.

Cut to 2023, and we see the frozen food boom has a lasting effect, post pandemic. As lifestyles continue to shift and hybrid work models become part of the new normal, frozen meals claim a strong position for those seeking easy, better-for-you options in between virtual meetings.

Consumer demand seems clear, favoring super premium, small brands. According to IRI’s “The Premium Opportunity” study, smaller premium brands, like Amy’s and Saffron Road, experienced the highest growth within the frozen category in 2021. Larger brands that are accustomed to dominating the category should take their cues from these agile challenger brands. Transparency, authenticity, and disruptive innovation is key.

“Consumers today are all about new and interesting flavor experiences – especially younger Gen Z consumers. This certainly translates into flavors, think big, bold and unexpected – as well as types of cuisines like Peruvian and Chinese fusion for example,” said Nicole Desir, executive vice president of Brand & Communications for Fresh Realm, a provider of fresh meals at retailers nationwide. “Additionally, branding will play a key role. Standing out within the fresh prepared or frozen meals section can be difficult and brands that win will highlight the flavor value proposition in stand out ways.”

Humantel, a consumer intelligence collective that focuses on a quantitative examination of attitudes, emotions, and values, taught us a few things about the Zs. In a study conducted in 2021, The Gen Z perspective became clear…here are our insights:

  1. Gen Z is all about flavor and experience. Make it taste and feel good! They’re committed to self-care and are discerning about clean ingredients, but they REALLY don’t want to skimp on flavor. They aren’t as focused on “healthy” eating as the older generations. Makes sense, right?  Their bodies are still young and not as sensitive as their elders.
  2. They want brands to support their goals. They want to be in sync with the companies they buy from. And, they want to be successful. Whether that is in career or emotional well-being. They want connection and value! So let’s give it to them…make things good, convenient, and easy to prepare. Market to their values. Have an authentic mission. Craft content around how products fit into their lifestyle.
  3. Underscore the value of food helping them to be the best version of themselves. Living a long healthy life is abstract. Living the most fabulous version of yourself– today–is tangible.

For more insightful reports check out these articles NBA Fans Research, A Sober Curious Audience Insight Report, Plant Based Consumers Report

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