A Fresh Look at Frozen
Kristin Reimers, PhD
Nutrition Manager, ConAgra Foods
According to Nielsen research, center of store sales have been declining since 2000. And while frozen foods comprise a $55 billion industry, increasing misperceptions about prepared foods and pressure to “shop the perimeter” have shifted customers away from the frozen foods aisle. Below we explore common myths associated with frozen foods in celebration of Frozen Food Month and the key role that you as a retail dietitian can play to help increase frozen food sales in your store.
Myth: Frozen foods are highly processed and have fewer nutrients than raw foods.
Fact: Frozen foods are made with quality ingredients and can be just as nutritious as raw foods.
A recent survey by ConAgra Foods found that 80 percent of consumers believe that frozen foods are highly processed, which is related to the misperception that frozen foods are less nutritious than raw foods. In fact, many frozen food ingredients often retain their ‘just picked’ nutrients more than raw products found in the perimeter of the store. The freezing process helps to retain the majority of the nutrients found in frozen food. For example, most fruits and vegetables are picked during peak ripeness and frozen within 24 hours, and fish is flash-frozen directly on the boat. These steps help preserve color, texture, nutrients, and flavor. When it comes to frozen meals, many start with recipes similar to home-prepared recipes and are frozen quickly after preparation to retain the flavors and nutrients. The nutrients in raw foods, on the other hand, continue to degrade during transportation and shelf time.
Myth: Frozen foods are high in salt, fat, and calories.
Fact: Many frozen foods are lower in salt, saturated fat and calories than average meals.
Many frozen meals are single serving portions with fewer than 450 calories and less salt and saturated fat than typical American meals.1 In fact, frozen, portion-controlled meals as part of a weight loss diet have been shown to support weight loss and heart health. A recent study reported at the American Heart Associations’ (AHA) Epidemiology and Prevention (EPI) and Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism (NPAM) meeting found that people who replaced their typical restaurant or cafeteria lunch with a frozen, single serving meal not only lost weight but also had decreases in cholesterol and blood pressure.2
Implications for Retail Dietitians: How can you use your influence as a retail dietitian to help showcase foods in the freezer aisle and encourage your shoppers to take a fresh look at frozen? Below is a list of ideas to get you started:
- Offer special promotions on frozen foods and educate about the preservation of nutrients via the freezing process with shelf talkers and large displays in the freezer aisle.
- Promote messages about foods that are frozen via Facebook and Twitter,, and offer social media contests that result in frozen food coupons.
- Offer in-store classes on preserving raw produce during the summer – educate customers on freezing food at peak freshness and the similarity to commercially prepared frozen foods.
- Include frozen food nutrition messages in media interviews, supermarket tours, and cooking demonstrations.
- Provide consumers with interactive quiz questions on your Facebook page to educate about the science-supported health benefits of frozen foods. Find single serving, frozen meal studies here.
2Single serving frozen meals instead of usual lunch result in reduced blood pressure and cholesterol. Kristin Reimers, Zhiping Yu, Stephanie Sinnett, Von Nguyen and James Rippe. American Heart Association (2013) Abstracts from the Joint Conference: Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism and CVD Epidemiology and Prevention 2013 Scientific Sessions.