Frozen foods, 2019 consumption and those boom in pandemic


From food stockpiling to frozen food stockpiling, the step is short, indeed obligatory. Consumption trends during the coronavirus outbreak, the lockdown, and the early months of the health crisis saw households hoarding groceries, pasta supplies, and ingredients such as flour and yeast. Bunker spending, the Coop called it, especially in the early weeks. There was no shortage of frozen foods in the stockpile, marking a 13.5 percent increase in household consumption in the first four months of the year.

The most purchased products were seafood, savory snacks, frozen pizzas, and potatoes. In 2019, on the other hand, frozen food consumption surpassed the 14 kg per person mark, returning to growth from 2018 and following a rather stable trend since 2010.

Consumption of frozen products. The IIAS Report

The picture comes from the dossier ‘Consumption of frozen products. Report 2019′ of the Italian Institute of Frozen Foods (IIAS) that takes stock of the state of the industry. But given the pandemic, he could not avoid putting frozen food consumption trends during the first four months of the year in black and white.

The coronavirus, the lockdown, and outgoings only to buy basic necessities have changed household spending. It has also been a stress test, to some extent, for the frozen food supply chain, which has been subjected to two opposing trends: an increase in in-home consumption and the halving or near halving of out-of-home consumption, which has collapsed due to the closure of school and company cafeterias, commercial and collective food service operations, bars and public establishments.

Frozen foods in the cart, the first quarter 2020

Thus, in the first four months of 2020 there was a boom in home consumption and a collapse in away-from-home consumption. With the lockdown came‘a shopping rush to secure household stock that rapidly and profoundly changed the composition of food spending,’ the Report says. Families bought pasta, rice, canned goods. And they bought frozen foods. There has been an increase in demand greater than that for fresh produce.

In the first quarter of 2020, household food spending increased by 7 percent year-on-year. In the first four months of the year, sales of total retail frozen food touched plus 13.5 percent with different increases depending on the segments: seafood marked plus 16.5 percent, salty snacks plus 21.5 percent, potatoes plus 12 percent, pizzas plus 12.5 percent, and Recipe products plus 5.5 percent.

In the second half of the year, the IIAS points out, a return to a stabilization of consumption can be expected. Losing instead is the entire out-of-home sector, first with the lockdown and then with an expected drop in demand that make talk of‘an overall loss on the year for the frozen food sector of 600-650 million euros corresponds to about a quarter of out-of-home sales.’

Still different and positive trends for door-to-door andonline. Door-to-door is booming, with increases in March alone of even more than 40 percent. Web sales are also going up, which is part of the overall increase inecommerce throughout the emergency phase of the pandemic.

‘In the same context,’ the dossier reads. the surge in online sales, a relatively new mode of purchasing for our industry, should be noted. The phenomenon is part of the boom in online trade in consumer packaged goods, which is registering rates of increase of more than 150 percent even in the first weeks after the reopenings in early May’.

Frozen food consumption in 2019

The 2019 trend speaks of recovering consumption. For the first time in Italy, per capita consumption of frozen food exceeded the threshold of 14 kg per year (14.1 kg to be precise). These products are the subject of general appreciation. Half of all households consume frozen foods two to three times a week. Last year all this translated into a 1.5 percent increase in volumes purchased in the retail channel.

‘The result was an overall growth in consumption of +1.3 percent, for an absolute value of 849,900 tons, corresponding to an annual per capita consumption of more than 14 kg. A better trend – as has been the case for some time – than that of overall Italian household food spending, which was +0.4 percent over 2018′.

Vegetables are the flagship of the industry, covering more than 43% of retail. Both simple vegetables and long-cooked and reconstituted soups are growing. In frozen food consumption, it is reported in detail plus 0.5 percent for vegetables, plus 0.7 percent for potatoes, plus 1.2 percent for seafood, plus 2.4 percent for pizzas and snacks, plus 2.9 percent for recipe dishes, plus 2.5 percent for fruits, and plus 1.1 percent for desserts. Meat is also growing, but it is a niche sector. Seafood products mark plus 1.2 percent but go up especially natural mollusks and shellfish (plus 7 percent) while whole fish and breaded or battered fish are down.

Sabrina Bergamini

Spending & lockout: more masks and less dye. Consumption of frozen products. 2019 Report

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Journalist. Consumption, rights, nutrition, social, environment. Head of Consumers Help. She collaborated with ResetDOC, Il Riformista, La Nuova Ecologia, IMGPress.