Frozen Meals Face New Challenges


Great prices, high quality, convenient solutions and a varied range are all expected by shoppers when buying food and groceries. To remain competitive retailers and suppliers need to meet shoppers’ basic needs while continuing to innovate to excite shoppers and appeal to their evolving needs.

In this article Nicola Ball, Shopper Insight Manager at IGD reveals what shoppers look out for when buying frozen meals and how shopping behavior within the frozen meal category compares to others. Understanding shopper behavior in this context will help you to identify potential growth opportunities for the category.

The value equation – price vs quality?

Price is always front of mind for shoppers, but the importance of price in the purchase decision differs by category. Frozen meals rank fifth out of 34 categories where price was an important consideration at the point of purchase (household paper is first followed by laundry, ice-cream and still drinks).

To grab shoppers’ attention on shelf, price communication needs to be bold, simple and impactful. Providing a range of products across different price tiers enables shoppers to choose a product to suit their budget.

Although price plays an important role in shoppers’ purchase decisions, the majority of frozen meal shoppers are prepared to pay extra for what they perceive to be higher quality. Frozen meals rank second out of 34 categories where shoppers agree that it’s worth paying a little extra to get better quality. Understanding what quality means to shoppers in this category is crucial to drive trade-up.  Most shoppers don’t have an unlimited budget and they won’t be willing to trade-up for every product they are selecting. How willing shoppers are to spend more than planned is determined by the other products being purchased on that trip and the perceived benefit of that product.

Ensure that you are communicating the quality credentials that matter most to shoppers on pack, on point of sale materials and in advertising and other communications.

The Food Warehouse by Iceland are larger format stores aimed at younger families that provide larger pack sizes, great deals and a wider range. The additional space means that Iceland can provide a greater variety of frozen meals to appeal to different meal occasions and different shopper budgets. Within the store, frozen meals are segmented by cuisine to demonstrate the breadth of choice.

Willingness to experiment

Alongside chilled ready meals, world foods, ice-cream and wine, frozen meals are one of the top categories where shoppers are open to purchasing new and different products. It is therefore important to highlight new products in-store, through signage, displays and on-pack messaging.

Flavor innovation is especially important to shoppers in frozen meals. On their last trip, 28% of frozen meal shoppers chose a specific product because it was a different flavor or type that they wanted to try versus a category average of 13%. Suppliers of frozen meals should look for opportunities to surprise and delight shoppers to increase experimentation, for example using new ingredients, different cuisines, seasonal or limited-edition products. Aligning innovation to different needs or occasions can increase product consumption and may attract new shoppers into the category – for example developing meals for a dinner party or late evening snack or meals to consume post-exercise.

However, with limited space in-store unlimited choice is not practical. Therefore, having the right range in the right store to meet a variety of different shopper needs and missions is vital. Retailers will be looking to minimize duplication in the category, so new products will need to provide a point of difference.

Many frozen meal shoppers make purchase decisions in-store – 74% of frozen meal shoppers decided to buy the specific product they had purchased once in store compared to a grocery average of 60%. When launching new products within this category it is crucial to get execution right in-store to increase the number of shoppers trialing products.

Shoppers want help making a choice

Despite the demand for new and different products, frozen meals rank fifth out of 34 categories where shoppers find it hard to make a choice. For some shoppers the range is too limited and so they can’t find what they want, while for other shoppers there is too much choice and they become overwhelmed.

A shopper-led segmentation combined with simple and eye-catching signage makes it easier for shoppers to navigate the category. Understanding how shoppers make decisions once they are at the fixture is vital to determine the ideal segmentation.

Inspiring and engaging point of sale at the shelf can be used to inform and influence shoppers’ choice. The biggest request from shoppers in this category is for clearer nutritional information, visibility of health benefits and for ingredients to be clearly displayed at the shelf so they can quickly make an informed decision.

The importance of health

Health means different things to different shoppers, so it is important to understand what a healthy option means to your target shopper.

Many shoppers aim to eat healthily, with 85% claiming they have at least one healthy eating priority, eating more fruit and vegetables and reducing sugar being the most common. However, a healthier product can’t be at the expense of taste.

Communicating the key health benefits on pack will increase the appeal among health-conscious shoppers and make it easier for them to decide at the shelf. Language, color and imagery all play a role in creating health associations among shoppers.

Great prices, high quality and convenience

Driving growth innovation in the frozen meals category will be key to meeting the evolving demands of shoppers. It is crucial for retailers to provide a range of options across different price tiers to meet the needs of shoppers with differing budgets. To succeed in this category products will need to demonstrate value through great prices, high quality and/or convenience.