CSNC EXCLUSIVE: What’s in store for frozen meals in 2024?

A Q&A with Conagra’s Paul Hogan, who talks about evolving flavours and consumption trends.
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Paul Hogan, vice-president and general manager, Conagra Brands Canada
Paul Hogan, vice-president and general manager, Conagra Brands Canada & International

Paul Hogan, vice-president and general manager, Conagra Brands Canada & International, connected with CSNC to share his thoughts about the rapidly changing frozen meal market in Canada. 

Frozen meals continues to be an expanding and important segment for Conagra and the company is fast-evolving its frozen meal segment to meet Canadians changing tastes, desire for healthier options and the growing need to stretch food budgets. 


Can you explain to us what has been happening in the frozen meal market in the past year?

PH: Frozen foods is a $8.2 billion category, (+7% vs year ago), with frozen meals and entrees the largest sub-category in size (Source: Nielsen Department Report, PE June 17, 2023). Since the start of the pandemic, food shopping and consumption habits have shifted regularly, but leveraging frozen food is a trend that has sustained. Frozen food annual servings for capita is up +3% vs 2019 (IPSOS Canada PE April 2023) reflecting a growing use of frozen foods over this time. 

How is the frozen meal segment evolving, specifically amongst consumers with more sophisticated tastes, who are open to trying new flavours and with an international culinary outlook? Can you point to any specific products or upcoming products in the frozen meal segment that reflect these changing taste trends amongst consumers?

PH: There is a lot of opportunity in the frozen market, particularly in multi-serve meals as Canadians continue to seek value amid Canada’s current economic state. We’ll also continue to see the frozen aisle evolve to meet the demand of new immigrants and Canadians looking for diverse flavours, which has created a growing pocket of innovation in terms of global cuisines across the frozen category: 36% of Canadians are cooking multicultural dishes at home (IPSOS Canada Chats 2023). We launched P.F Chang’s Home Menu offerings in the second half of 2023 to meet this need for more diverse flavours in the frozen set and we are looking at opportunities with other cuisines in the future.

For some years, frozen single-serve meals have been a growing segment within the frozen meal market. However, over the past year with rising food costs and inflation, consumers have been looking to stretch their food budgets. Has this caused consumers to shift to multi-serve meals from single-serve meals. Have you started to create offerings to meet that trend?

PH: Absolutely, consumers are shifting towards multi-serve meals for the best value–particularly millennials. Millennials are the largest and fastest growing consumer of frozen food. As they enter family formation, they seek easy and quick ways to feed their family, so multi-serve meals have grown +2% in units vs 2020 (Nielsen All Channel, L52 PE August 12, 2023).  “Easy to prepare” is the top motivation in Frozen Foods (IPSOS FIVE, PE April 23, 2023). 

Conagra has for some time been a leader in MSM, so our recent launches were an extension of the work we had already been doing over many years with Swanson Skillets and Marie Callender’s. To meet the growing demand, Conagra Brands launched two new brands in the frozen aisle in late-2023 with multi-serve offerings, including: P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Multi-Serve and Single-Serve Meals and Bertolli Multi-Serve Pasta Meals. We also added four new items to our Swanson portfolio with oven preparation: Swanson Oven Easy Meals.

READ: Conagra’s Future of Frozen Food 2024 report looks at what will drive market segment in 2024

What is happening with single-serve frozen meals now so that they remain competitive? Are we going to see a greater emphasis in the coming year on fresher ingredients, healthier options etc. in order to keep consumers interested in single-serve meals.

PH: Given the diversity of options within single-serve meals today and the options that continue to emerge, we anticipate consumers remaining interested in the single-serve segment. Healthy Choice is a leader in better-for-you and we have innovated in recent years with Power Bowls with wholesome ingredients and Zero with no added sugar to meet evolving consumer dietary requests. However, we also find that our Swanson and Hungry-Man offerings do well in providing classic comfort flavours, like Salisbury steak. And our new P.F. Chang’s Home Menu Bowls deliver for the shopper looking for bolder flavour. Choice is really the critical elements for single-serve meal success.

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