Big trouble in the frozen-food aisle

With products in the freezer section suffering flat sales, a major ad campaign is coming to get consumers interested again.

By Aimee Picchi Apr 16, 2013 2:28PM

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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Apr 16, 2013 4:46PM

$50 mil for ad campaign

$0 research for better, healthier food

5% increase in price of frozen food to pay for campaign


Good thinking!


Apr 16, 2013 3:59PM
Like Banquet Beef Pot pies, the price of these babies went up while their beefy-goodness filling went DOWN. By the time you get done baking one of these, you got nothing less then a half-hollowed out pastry shell with one or (if your lucky) two pieces of rubberized meat. I used to really look forward to pot pies back in the days of QUAILTY, but now I'd rather make my own, or make something different all together, NOT from Banquet!
Apr 16, 2013 3:39PM
quality sucks, too many preservatives, way over packaged. and the last reason. over priced.
Apr 16, 2013 5:17PM
Maybe ConAgra and General Mills should spend that $50 million and take the GMOs out of their food!
Apr 16, 2013 4:18PM
Apr 16, 2013 5:01PM
If they would make frozen dinners that weren't swimming in fat, sodium, and calories, I might consider it.
Apr 16, 2013 3:11PM
How about folks avoiding frozen food because the some of the prices are up while the quality and quantity are down. 

Some folks avoids simply because they aren't eager to try out different things. Some products are actually good. You would never know it you don't try it out however. Meanwhile others selling us crap that's only getting worse.

Just another example of the industrial food manufacturers being completely out of touch with the American consumer.  The reason people want fresh to begin with is they don't want all the chemicals and other crap most prepared, frozen food items contain.  Idiots.
Apr 16, 2013 3:44PM
Personally it is the amount and types of chemicals that they are using to preserve frozen food. Other than the use of chemicals being a pure profit driven technique that allows food to be preserved way beyond what nature allows, I think the public is starting to wise up that these chemicals are not good for us if they can kill or delay what is supposed to be natural.
Apr 16, 2013 4:27PM
Apr 16, 2013 3:50PM
Sure, I love fresh food.  However,  we are a household of 2.  I found that many frozen veggie combos, are more price effective, convenient, and more enjoyable for us.  Often fresh produce spoils before we get a chance to use it.  I can nuke a bowl of frozen veggies.  It is quick and delicious,  tastes fresh, and is more nutritious than a couple of day old veggies. 

Someone mentioned Birds Eye veggies.  I love their stir fry combo.

As for "frozen dinners", and the like.  I have not found anything that impresses me.  Too expensive; too many ingredients that I can't pronounce.   
Apr 16, 2013 5:05PM
You say it like it is a bad thing that people are choosing healthier diets over frozen, processed crap. Advertsers and their clients want to 'target' certain age groups and ethnicities to turn around the frozen food industry's slump...Hmmmm...How about you promote fresh foods and healthy eating habits??? The world would be much better for that.
Apr 16, 2013 3:45PM
Recent extraction of wisdom teeth and the bag of frozen peas in the fridge was a godsend. I doubt that any fresh produce would have worked as well.
Apr 16, 2013 4:18PM
Why buy frozen its all chalk full of salt and is usually the most unhealthy aisle in a store besides the candy aisle.
Apr 16, 2013 4:23PM
most frozen food use GMOs ingredients
Apr 16, 2013 4:42PM
Some frozen foods are of much higher quality than others.  I like Marie Calendar's the best, but I once bought a Banquet pot pie and couldn't even finish the thing because it tasted so horrible! 

Naturally, eating fresh food is healthier than frozen any day, but sometimes I just don't have the energy to cook from scratch and so grab a frozen dinner. 

Apr 16, 2013 5:34PM

 "I like Marie Calendar's the best,"


You must be kidding. Her processed food has some of the highest fat and caloric content in the industry. I loved her pot pies before my heart attack. I then read the label and haven't had another heart attack or eaten one of these pies.

Apr 16, 2013 4:29PM
Buy crap you get crap. apparently based on the comments, the frozen food you people buy, is crap.
Apr 16, 2013 5:47PM
LOL. Wendy's has been stating the Fresh Not Frozen since I was working there back in 82 when we 1st came out with the Stuffed Baked Potatoes'. The Meat comes in fresh Daily, I remember, cause I had to patty it up every morning. So I think the JUMPING ON THE BAN WAGON comment is a little off. As far as the Frozen foods, they got a little pricy so most of us stopped getting them. Hope they drop a little, I love some of those things.
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