- Nestlé, Kellogg, Tyson Foods and Gorton’s Seafood are among the food companies looking to the air fryer boom to attract consumers.
- As inflation slows and retailers pressure suppliers to stop raising prices, food companies have had to look elsewhere for growth.
- Nearly 60% of US households own an air fryer, according to Nestlé’s Adam Graves.
An air fryer for sale at the Kroger Marketplace in Versailles, Kentucky, U.S. on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.
Scotty Perry | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Kettle Foods, known for its kettle-cooked potato chips, recently unveiled what it called “the future of the potato chip category”: air-fried potato chips.
The launch of Campbell Soup-branded snacks, made with patent-pending technology, is the latest example of Big Food betting on consumers’ love for all things cooked in air fryers.
In 2022, US consumers spent nearly $1 billion on air fryers, up 51% from 2019, according to market research firm The NPD Group. Sales of cooking appliances have skyrocketed since 2017, and they received an extra boost at the start of the pandemic as people cooked more at home.
And now that more and more workers are returning to the office and spending less time in the kitchen, consumers are increasingly turning to portable convection ovens. Joe Derochowski, home industry adviser at the NPD Group, said the main draw is how easy and quick it is to use the device, as well as achieving a crispy texture without frying. And food manufacturers want to capitalize on the trend.
“They say necessity is the mother of invention. And in this case, necessity is to keep growing revenue,” said Ken Harris, managing partner at Cadent Consulting Group. “The best way to increase revenue is to take a behavior that already exists and find a new use for that behavior.”
Big food companies like Kraft Heinz and Nestlé saw sales surge early in the pandemic. When consumers started eating out again and cooking less, food manufacturers’ sales continued to grow thanks to double-digit price increases. But as shoppers’ grocery bills rose in 2022, they started buying cheaper options instead, leading to lower volume.
As inflation slows and retailers pressure suppliers to stop raising prices, food companies have had to look elsewhere for growth.
Adam Graves, president of Nestlé’s U.S. pizza and snacks division, said the company is addressing the air fryer boom through its frozen food brands, specifically to deliver more value to customers. .
“It’s the biggest trend we’re seeing in the modern kitchen right now,” said Graves, who owns two air fryers himself.
Last year, Nestlé launched pizza bites under its DiGiorno and Stouffer’s brands. The packaging for both lines tells consumers “Try it in your air fryer”. Other Nestlé products, like Hot Pockets, now include air fryer cooking instructions as well as microwave and oven heating instructions.
Tyson Foods jumped on the trend relatively early, launching its line of air fried products in 2019. Products, ranging from chicken strips to its latest addition, Parmesan Seasoned Chicken Bites, contain 75% less fat. Colleen Hall, Tyson’s senior brand marketing manager, said the line has reached around $100 million in annual retail sales.
Tyson is also a third of the way through adding air fryer instructions to its packaging for its frozen prepared foods.
“If you look at how often it’s used as a preparation method, it’s about 5%,” Hall said. “I think consumers want to use it more, they want more options to use it, so now is a good time for us to put it on our packaging.”
Air fryer directions are building favor for the Tyson brand, according to Hall, who cited recent brand health data. She attributed it to the convenience of the device and the perceived health benefits of the cooking process.
For fish stick maker Gorton’s Seafood, getting more into air frying is a way to retain the customers it has won during the pandemic shutdowns.
“(The pandemic) has been a pretty dramatic change that has brought a lot of new households to our category and to the brand,” Jake Holbrook, Gorton’s vice president of marketing, told CNBC. “And we’ve worked hard through our messaging and our products to keep those consumers in the category and inspire Americans to eat more seafood.”
Air frying is the second most popular way to reheat frozen prepared foods, according to Holbrook.
The company, which is owned by Nissui, jumped on the trend by putting air fryer cooking instructions on its website. Then he added the instructions to the packaging. In January, he unveiled Air Fried Butterfly Shrimp and Air Fried Fish Filets.
Gorton’s launched Air Fried Fish Fillets and Air Fried Butterfly Shrimp nationwide in January.
Source: Gorton Seafood
Gorton’s new butterfly shrimp and fish fillets were cooked by air frying before being packaged, but consumers can reheat the seafood by air frying it again. The packaging of the products boasts that it contains 50% less fat.
“Everyone will be jumping on this bandwagon for the next two years while it’s in vogue,” Harris said.
Other food makers following the trend include Kellogg, which began including air fryer instructions for its plant-based Morningstar Farms products in early 2021 in response to customer requests. Similarly, Hormel Foods responded to consumer demand for air fryers by updating its packaging and adding recipes to its website and cooking videos to YouTube to create Spam Fries and Corned Hash. -beef Mary Kitchen.
Nestlé went even further by targeting consumers who have yet to purchase an air fryer. In December, it teamed up with Insta Brands, the maker of the Insta Pot and its own version of the air fryer, to offer the device. He organized a similar gift internally at Nestlé US for its employees.
Graves estimates that about 60% of American households have an air fryer at this point. But it is not yet ubiquitous.
“If you compare it to a microwave — there’s a microwave in pretty much everyone — the air fryer still has a long way to go,” Harris said.
Still, it’s on its way to joining the microwave as a staple in American kitchens. In 2022, the air fryer overtook grills and multicookers to become the #4 cooking appliance, according to the NPD Group.
“I think people originally thought (the air fryer) was something that might be a fad,” Tyson’s Hall said. “It’s similar to the 1970s – people thought the same about the microwave.”