July 29, 2020

Foodservice operators turning to frozen options during pandemic

On July 21, the American Frozen Food Institute hosted a webinar with Datassential’s Erin Murray to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the foodservice industry and some imperatives for the frozen food industry on the road ahead.

According to Datassential, foodservice sales are down an average of 65% across the whole industry, but it’s not the same story for every segment. On-site segments are significantly more optimistic they’ll recover from COVID-19, like healthcare and K-12 foodservice, because they have essential roles to play right now.

The positive news for frozen in the foodservice segment is that operators are purchasing less frequently and are turning to frozen foods for its longer shelf life which means less wasted food. In addition, the versatility of frozen foods allows the operator to be nimble with their menu options and planning.

What we’re seeing playout for frozen in foodservice is reinforcing what we know: Frozen foods are an essential ingredient for the nation’s foodservice operators.

AFFI partnered with Datassential earlier this year on the Power of Frozen in Foodservice research to explore operator attitudes and perceptions about frozen foods, purchase drivers and uses, and identify how manufacturers and distributors can most effectively meet operator needs and strengthen demand for frozen food in foodservice.

Despite the frozen category’s high penetration in foodservice (89% of operators purchase frozen foods and beverages), potential for growth exists. Here are the imperatives for frozen on the road ahead:

  • Connect frozen to operator needs
  • Provide trend insight
  • Innovation

I want to touch on that last point for a moment: innovation. Operators in our research earlier this year expressed the need for category innovation and the COVID-19 effect has further driven that need, such as:

  • Greater flavor variety with enhanced quality and textures.
  • Frozen products that provide labor savings (such as fully prepared frozen items, in addition to understanding the role of frozen in scratch cooking). In fact, Erin shared yesterday that 63% of foodservice operators have laid off staff due to the coronavirus and 48% plan to keep less staff.
  • Packaging to address storage limitations and reduce food waste, such as resealable, bulk bags.

I invite you to explore more findings from AFFI’s Power of Frozen in Foodservice research here.

— Alison Bodor, president, AFFI







The United Fresh Produce Association Washington Conference is coming up in September.Is anyone in Washington, DC listening to America as we call for cooperation and collaboration to serve the entire country, not just our polarized extremes? During the virtual Washington Conference this September, Rep. Rodney Davis (IL-13) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) will share lessons from their history of working across the aisle, including during COVID-19, that may help lead to a more bipartisan Congress in 2021 and beyond. hubs.ly/H0twS4X0
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