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How COVID-19 Buying Patterns Will Affect the Frozen Dessert Market

Although the COVID-19 pandemic is only just over a month old, experts are already seeing major shifts in retail behaviours and they’re projecting how these behaviours will change after the pandemic. As we already know, people are stockpiling groceries and focusing on shelf-stable and frozen foods. Post-pandemic, experts at Nielsen, the global media and consumer data measurement firm, predict that crisis buying patterns will become the norm, meaning continued purchasing of pantry and freezer staples.

Consumers Want to Treat Themselves

Interestingly, it’s not just basics like rice, beans and frozen vegetables, that are filling consumers’ carts. The Center for Food Integrity says that shoppers are buying “guilty pleasures” and Food Navigator shares that foods consumers see as treats are generally recession-proof.

Frozen Desserts are Here To Stay

Despite the myth that avoiding ice cream can prevent COVID-19, we predict that the frozen dessert category will survive and may even thrive though this pandemic, especially as temperatures rise this spring. While obviously frozen dessert sales won’t rise like sales of hand sanitizer or bags of rice, the category fits into the buying trends we’re seeing. These desserts are frozen and therefore stable for months on end and they fulfill people’s desires to treat themselves during times of crisis.

“The nature of a seasonal product like ice cream, and the scale of production for some businesses, means that we often produce big batches to keep unit costs low, and then store in deep frozen storage before moving to retailers.  This process actually is a huge benefit to consumers as supply is buffered against demand,” says Andrew Kinnear, co-founder of Yellofruit.

Plus, says Kinnear, frozen desserts like Yellofruit are safer from germs and contamination for three reasons. 1. General food safety implementation (such as BRC food safety certification) at the plant level. 2. Kill steps like pasteurization at the product level. 3. Deep frozen storage and transportation at the distribution and sales level.  "Those three steps add up to safety," he says.

Increased Interest in Health

As people start to return to what Nielsen calls “a new normal” in China, as the virus infections begin to drop, there’s a renewed interest in health. And while purchases of medical masks may drop, consumers will likely continue to show an interest in wellness. For instance, Boston Consulting Group says that spending trends in buying more organic foods and an interest in preventative health care will continue through and beyond COVID-19. Food Navigator also outlines that “an interest in healthier products and plant-based trends is likely here to stay,” especially when those items are affordable and easy to add to one’s cart.

Artisanal frozen desserts were already projected to surpass $22,075 million by 2027, with a focus on organic products or products for those with food intolerances. This shift in consumer behaviour because of the pandemic could mean a move towards dairy-alternative, organic and healthier frozen desserts for the general public.

What’s Next?

As we continue to monitor changing buying patterns and consumer preferences due to this health crisis, we predict that shoppers will become more particular about what they put in their shopping carts. Not only will they be looking for shelf life and economy, but they’ll be reviewing labels for healthy, minimally-processed or 'clean label' ingredients in an effort to keep their immune systems healthy.

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