Certain categories of the frozen vegetable market are showing growth, but confusion over scanner data and the best placement of various items continues. “Frozen vegetables hit almost every major trend,” according to Marti Morfitt, vice president of Pillsbury’s Green Giant brands. “They’re convenient, they make it easier to eat healthy and they address the continuing decline in consumer cooking skills,” Ms. Morfitt told Frozen Food Age (January).
However, consumer focus groups say that the frozen vegetable section is confusing, with a lot of choices. Consumers fall into two basic groups: premium branded shoppers and those who prefer nonpremium and private label and there is very little crossover between these groups, according to an A.C. Nielsen market structure study.
Meal starters, which have been quickly gaining popularity, are viewed as a different category from frozen vegetables by focus groups. Green Giant has had some success by putting its Create-a-Meal starters in spot freezers next to refrigerated meats. A major Southeastern retailer promoted Dean Foods’ Birds Eye cob corn using a spot freezer from Superfridge, an in-store merchandiser based in Guilford, CT and sold 11 times as many cases as the chain had averaged on a weekly basis over the rest of the year, according to Frozen Food Age.
There is also some confusion in the industry due to category definitions from third party data providers. “For example, Pasta Accents are not really side dishes, despite what data providers might say. That’s $75 million worth of growth for the vegetable category that just disappears from the numbers,” says David Webber, vice president of branded sale and marketing for Dean Foods Vegetable Company.
The following is how Dean Foods breaks out the dollar market share for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 22, 2014:
- Polybag blends, 28.5%, up from 28.1% a year ago. This segment includes Pasta Accents, Recipe Secrets, Combos, rice blends, vegetable mixes for soup or stew, premium blends (Farm Fresh, American Mixtures, International, Stir Fry, etc.).
- Meal starters, 5.7%, up from 2.9% a year ago. This segment includes Easy Recipe, Create-a-Meal, Hanover Chinese Classics, but no products with meat already added.
- Polybag plain, 27.3%, down from 28.1% a year earlier.
- Boxed sauced, 7.8% share, down from 8.7%. This segment includes boxed vegetables that are blended or creamed with sauce or butter.
- Other categories include boxed plain, 13.2% down from 14.2%, Southern vegetables, 9.6% share, down from 9.8% and corn-on-the-cob 7.8% down from 8.2% last year.
Mr. Webber would prefer that scan data be organized in this fashion, so that it would more closely match consumer shopping habits. Dean Foods’ consumer research indicates that shoppers are grouped bag vs. box, brand vs. private label and they substitute one vegetable for another. “They want to see brand blocks – Birds Eye, Green Giant and private label – and they want bags separated from boxes, plain vegetables separated from sauced and all blends in the same grab area,” Mr. Webber told Frozen Food Age.