Frozen snacks heat up as consumers merge growing demand with limited options

A return to comfort flavors, especially in snacks, has been a hallmark of the past 18 months. At the same time, consumers have been very clear about their desire to try new flavors and flavor combinations. And all that has happened at a time when supply chain issues and other roadblocks have kept many favorites from grocery shelves.

That’s led many people to the frozen food section of their local grocery store, where a wealth of new opportunities awaits. A recent Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery article explored the sizzling frozen market and tapped Sensient Flavors & Extracts’ Mathias Bohn V, product and portfolio manager, North America, for some insights.

Many new products in the frozen snack and appetizer category are focusing on flavor and taste from around the world. Health and wellness for body and mind, as well as sustainability, are crucial focuses in both ingredients and packaging. There also has been a move toward snack-sized products that, in many cases, has meant a willingness to try a plant-based substitute, Bohn says, adding that Sensient’s own consumer surveys and research have verified this trend:

“More than three-quarters of consumers we asked agreed smaller-portioned meals for one or two people are appealing to them,” he says. “Thus, convenience and quick meal turnaround is important. It’s also possible that during the time of empty grocery shelves, consumers tried plant-based substitutes for the first time and may continue to use them as the pandemic begins to end.”

This represents a huge opportunity for manufacturers. According to the article, “the frozen appetizer and snack category experienced another year of double-digit growth, up 14.6 percent to $3.1 billion based on the latest 52 weeks ending May 16, 2021, per IRI, Chicago. The frozen appetizer and snack category, comprised of frozen appetizers and snacks, frozen pretzels, and frozen breaded vegetables, also experienced growth—up 13.5 percent to just shy of $3.0 billion.”

“In consumer minds, plant-based products are healthier by a wide margin, and that the future lies in a plant-based diet,” Bohn says. “Education, taste, and variety will be very important if consumers are to move to a plant-based lifestyle. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased consumer awareness of how diet-related diseases might put them at an increased risk of the disease and is causing people to pay greater attention to the nutritional content of their diets. As health and wellness continue to be a focus, plant-based options that are veggie-forward should capitalize on the inherent health-halo of those ingredients.”