Grocery store freezer cases (© Aaron Craven-E+-Getty Images)
TV dinners are feeling their age. 

Once seen as cutting-edge and convenient options, frozen dinners and other freezer-aisle items are getting a chilly reaction from consumers in favor of fresh food. 

Now the American Frozen Food Institute and the Frozen Food Roundtable, whose members include industry giants such as ConAgra (CAG) and General Mills (GIS), are fighting back. They're planning an advertising campaign that could shell out as much as $50 million, all to try to get consumers to buy frozen again, Advertising Age reports.

One of the biggest challenges to the frozen-food industry is the popularity of ad campaigns for restaurants like Wendy's (WEN), which advertises "fresh, never frozen," food, the story notes. 

Wendy's isn't the only company jumping onto the fresh-food bandwagon. Chipotle (CMG) touts its "fresh cooking," while Subway urges consumers to "eat fresh."

Consumers are seeking out fresh food because frozen food is commonly associated with high sugar, fat, preservatives and other coronary-clogging baddies delivered in sauce-laden entrees and rich ice cream treats.

The result? Big-time freezer burn.

The frozen-food industry, which is searching for an ad agency to lead the push, wants to target baby boomer, millennial and Hispanic shoppers, AdAge notes. 

One proposal from agency McCann Erickson, which is considered the leader in the ad agency search, suggests messages with taglines like "Frozen. How fresh stays fresh." Rival taglines from other agencies include "Fresh just frozen" and "Open up to frozen."

Frozen-food sales were flat in 2012, according to a study from Packaged Facts that was cited by Food Product Design. 

The top reason for avoiding frozen food was a preference for fresh items. About one-fifth of consumers say they avoid frozen food for reasons such as not liking the taste or concerns about nutrition and quality, the study found. 

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi


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