Heating Up the Frozen Ethnic Foods Market with In-Demand Flavors and Convenient Products

frozen ethnic foods
Can companies capitalize on the burgeoning frozen ethnic foods market?
Image source: Flickr CC user Open Grid Scheduler

Our modern lifestyles keep us very busy. Between work, chores and spending quality time with family and friends, we aren’t left with much free time. In fact, I’d argue that we often try to streamline certain tasks to maximize what downtime we do have. For many people, preparing meals falls into that category. While I love to cook, I can certainly understand why other people would not. Food planning and preparation can take forever if you don’t enjoy the process. This attitude is why consumers are seeing more pre-packaged, fresh ready-made dinners and healthy-for-you, organic snacks in grocery stores.

Ironically, one food category doesn’t seem to be enjoying the same amount of success: frozen food. The apparent slump of frozen foods doesn’t make sense at first glance. What’s quicker and more convenient to prepare than a frozen meal? A few minutes in the microwave, oven or toaster oven, and they’re ready to serve and eat. They’re ideal for hungry eaters with little time. But upon closer inspection, the lack of growth may stem from other factors. The popularity of ethnic flavors has driven consumers to rely on restaurant take-out versus ready-made food, which may not be as authentic. Much of society has also grown increasingly health conscious. Consumers want food that is nutritious and made from all-natural ingredients. Many people don’t associate either of those traits with frozen foods. In fact, consumers often link frozen meals with preservatives and increased sodium to make up for flavors typically lost during the manufacturing process.

Focusing on Frozen Ethnic Foods May Revitalize This Sector

Simply because sales are currently flagging, it’s worth noting that the frozen food sector shouldn’t be ignored. If anything, flat sales suggest an area ripe for innovation and opportunity. It might help to look at current trends and see how they can apply to the category. Perhaps it would be beneficial to focus on incorporating more authentic multicultural flavors into frozen product lines.1

The rise of the ethnic food market has been a hot topic, lately. As more consumers seek out traditional flavors, wouldn’t it suggest that this burgeoning interest spill over into the frozen food market? Frozen ethnic foods aren’t anything new, of course. Popular frozen meal lines have had their own versions of egg rolls and burritos for years. The key here is authenticity. Speaking as someone who once relied upon frozen lunches to feed herself regularly, many of those purported frozen ethnic foods bore little resemblance to the items one could buy in an actual restaurant. I certainly lamented the taste and quality of Asian rice in those lunches. The ability to successfully incorporate traditional flavors into frozen ethnic foods may be what provides the market advantage companies are seeking. Not only that, but building upon popular regional trends and leveraging those flavor profiles to determine which food products to develop and prioritize may further success.

Partnerships in the Frozen Ethnic Foods Market Can Drive Opportunity

If firms can capture the flavor authenticity that today’s consumers want, then the convenience offered by frozen ethnic foods will no doubt find an eager audience. Many have seen ethnic food distributors form long-lasting relationships with mainstream grocery stores.2 These relationships bring frozen ethnic foods to the attention of people who may not otherwise be exposed to them. After all, part of the allure of pre-packaged authentic foods is that they’re easy. Buyers don’t have to track down exotic ingredients and learn new cooking techniques. Fostering such collaborations through improved communication and shared knowledge can pinpoint which frozen foods would appeal best to which demographics and use that information to strategize.

The time for the frozen ethnic foods market to rebound may even be closer than we think. In 2014, Japanese company Ajinomoto acquired Windsor Quality Holdings, which has many well-known U.S. frozen food brands under its umbrella.3 The acquisition made Ajinomoto the largest food manufacturer in the world, but more significantly, it made them a major player in the North American market. They’ve already announced plans to streamline organizational processes in order to maximize profit margins. Once they accomplish that goal, Ajinomoto could very well start incorporating more of the traditional Asian seasonings they’re best known for into new offerings. Other organizations can follow their lead by ensuring that their workflows are as efficient and productive as possible while also remaining compliant to all guidelines and standards.

While protecting margins is a priority of any CPG organization, packaged food companies must continually develop new and innovative products to appeal to the shifting interests of a highly informed consumer base. Over the past few years, authentic ethnic flavors have enjoyed popularity in all food categories. What changes from year to year, however, is which regions top the list. Currently, Southeast Asian, African and Middle Eastern cuisines hold the most interest, but the tides may shift, and Asian and Latino fusion could become the next trend. By injecting traditional cuisines into frozen ethnic foods, companies can capitalize on potential opportunity and revitalize a stagnant market.

BIOVIA offers integrated, digital solutions for organizations seeking to deliver innovation to established markets. Our Formulations solution is specifically designed so that CPG companies can support their R&D efforts, boost efficiency and productivity, reduce compliance and regulatory risk and minimize costs. The solution’s tools transition research facilities from outdated systems to digital platforms that allow collaborators to share information and use existing protocols and templates. Above all, it provides insight into existing knowledge, enabling key decision-makers to make informed choices about which projects to pursue. If you’re interested in learning how the BIOVIA Formulations solution can help your efforts to develop new and exciting frozen ethnic foods, please contact us to learn more.

  1. “A Taste of the Trends for Retail Refrigerated & Frozen Foods,” June 25, 2014, http://www.refrigeratedfrozenfood.com/articles/88180-a-taste-of-the-trends-for-retail-refrigeratedfrozen-foods
  2. “The power of Publix: Market battles for dominance as it expands,” May 10, 2015, http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/biz-monday/article20621844.html
  3. “Focus: How Windsor deal is part of Ajinomoto’s global expansion drive,” September 25, 2014, http://www.just-food.com/analysis/how-windsor-deal-is-part-of-ajinomotos-global-expansion-drive_id127959.aspx