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Why frozen food sales are rocking again in America

Brian Sozzi

Forget for a second about those thawed plant-based Beyond Meat (BYND) sausages that are usually sold out at Target. Good old fashioned frozen food continues to be the choice among hurried millennials and families, in large part because one of the leading players in the space, Conagra Brands (CAG), is making better tasting, healthier stuff.

Think Healthy Choice “Power Bowls” packed with protein and quinoa — nope, this isn’t your grandmother’s TV dinner.

“With frozen food, it has just been about getting the quality back into the food. At the end of the day, it’s just a temperature state but historically the food quality has lagged. We hadn’t modernized the brands. We have set out to do that and we have made tremendous progress and see it in the numbers,” Conagra Brands CEO Sean Connolly said on Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade.

Conagra’s efforts to improve the ingredients and look of Healthy Choice, Marie Callendar — and soon the struggling Birds Eye frozen veggie business it got as part of the $8 billion Pinnacle acquisition in 2018 — continues to show up in its financial results.

Frozen dinners by Healthy Choice, a Conagra brand, rest on a supermarket shelf, Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Organic sales of Conagra’s frozen food grew at a healthy 1.5% in its most recent quarter. Profit margins in the frozen food business also expanded, Conagra said. Neither is a small achievement in such a competitive food category, and one that isn’t known for its rapid innovation.

Conagra’s multi-billion dollar refrigerated and frozen food business makes up about 30% of its annual sales.

Outside of Conagra, the frozen food industry continues to be in fine shape as others also upgrade packaging, marketing and ingredients. For the 52-weeks ended Sept. 28, frozen food sales have gained 1.8% to $54 billion, according to Nielsen data. Frozen food sales have gained each year since 2015, Nielsen’s data shows.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and co-anchor of The First Trade at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @BrianSozzi

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