Frozen Food's Unlikeliest Hero: Millennials
No one could have predicted its imminent demise. Once a provider of joy, happiness, and togetherness for millions of families across the globe, this great giver of good was weakened. The past looked more and more like a forgotten promise. The present appeared a dream, one that is just out of grasp - the dreamer knows that there was something, once beautiful and grand, the details faded into distant memory. People forgot the joy that it once brought across the land. It seemed that all was lost… but then — hope.
No, this is not the overarching plot to the next Avengers movie. And okay, there have definitely been some literary liberties taken in opening the content of this article. In all seriousness, it is interesting how frozen food slowly faded away over the years. Whereas at one time frozen foods, from Kid’s Cuisine to Digiorno's Pizza, used to be a staple of people gathering around the television to watch their favorite shows with friends or family, it has steadily declined over a number of years. What caused the decay? Most likely a number of factors were at play - a greater emphasis on the quality and health in foods and a change in television viewing habits, amongst other factors.
Many would be quick to jump to the conclusion of Millennials, claiming that their greater emphasis on healthy eating, awareness of the drawbacks of processed food, and desire to be hip by shying away from traditional packaged foods, all contributed to the decline in the frozen food section. Here is the thing though: nobody, even in the golden eras of frozen TV dinners, promoted frozen food as being superior in quality to fresh food. The thing that people liked about frozen food was primarily one characteristic: convenience. Wanting things quickly is not an attribute that has become less desired over the past few years. On the contrary, convenience has grown in importance. One would think that frozen foods would become more popular over time, as wanting things quickly with little required effort has only become more expected in the age of Amazon. Well, that is precisely what is happening as companies that produce frozen food have been adjusting their offerings to be more healthy - including vegan options, vegetables, and processing less.
In a plot twist of events to rival the action in Batman: The Dark Knight (okay, again probably a stretch), it is Millennials who are driving frozen food sales upward after years of decline. According to Reuters, millennials are spending 9% more on frozen foods than the average household. After multiple years of decline, this past year saw an approximate 4.5% increase in frozen foods sales according to Nielsen and Bloomberg. Convenience, healthier options, and better control over portion sizes are all likely to have influenced Millennials to be the unlikely heroes of the frozen food aisle. Companies like Kellogg’s, after years of decline, saw a double-digit increase in its sale of Eggo Waffles after the character Eleven in “Stranger Things”, one of Netflix’s hit shows, made that her food of choice. What group of people does advertising on hit sci-fi Netflix shows target? Millennials. Companies like Kellogg’s are seeing where the growth is. It is likely that we will see frozen food companies from Nestle’s to Conagra Foods battle for the Millennial demographic in coming quarters and years.
Bright Greens, based in Rockville, Maryland is one such young company joining the charge in providing healthy, convenient, and frozen options across America. Bright Greens, available online and rolling-out in every Whole Foods in the United States, offers frozen smoothie ice cubes that you simply add to water to create a delicious and healthy smoothie ranging in flavors from Bright Blueberry (Kale, spinach, and blueberries) to Pineapolis (pineapple, banana, kale, orange juice). “It was my desire to make something where people who wanted to make something fresh in their kitchen, that could take a long time to make, could instead make something just as healthy in a matter of seconds. Something that would be fast to make, easy to make, and require no clean-up,” says Bright Greens founder Brian Mitchell.
Mitchell further discusses how this new wave of frozen food options is not only more convenient but how the frozen food aisle is turning into a place where the food is actually fresher than buying food at a restaurant or buying raw ingredients for your kitchen. “When you freeze something the way that we do, it really does lock-in about 100% of the nutrients. All those nutrients, the flavor, and the color are preserved. When you compare our product to cold-press juice that has been sitting in the refrigerator at a restaurant or on the shelf, those products are degrading over time.”
While time will tell, it is looking like this could be the beginning of a major comeback for frozen foods. As consumers continue to demand healthier options, while also wanting things more quickly, frozen foods could stand as Millennials’ best hope of meeting their needs. With companies like Bright Greens leading the charge, the once great institution of frozen choices could be not just the hero that we deserve, but the hero that we need. Move over Batman.