Nestle, Tyson and other food giants bet on air fryer boom to grow sales

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  • Nestle, Kellogg, Tyson Foods and Gorton’s Seafood are among the food companies leaning towards the fryer boom to attract consumers.
  • As inflation declines and retailers pressure suppliers to stop raising prices, food companies have had to look elsewhere for growth opportunities.
  • According to Nestle’s Adam Graves, almost 60% of households in the US own deep fryers.

Kettle Foods, known for its pot-cooked potato chips, recently introduced what it calls the “future of the potato chip category”: air-fried chips.

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Campbell’s soup The launch of the brand’s snacks, made with a patented technology, is the latest example of how Big Food is banking on consumers’ love for everything cooked in deep fryers.

In 2022, U.S. consumers spent almost $1 billion buying air fryers, up 51% from 2019, according to the research firm. NPD group. Sales of kitchen equipment have been skyrocketing since 2017, and they got an extra boost in the early days of the pandemic as people started cooking more at home.

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And now, as more workers return to the office and spend less time in the kitchen, consumers are increasingly turning to portable convection ovens. Joe Derochowski, home industry consultant at NPD Group, said the main benefit is the ease and speed of use of the appliance and the crispy texture without deep frying. And food manufacturers want to capitalize on this trend.

“They say that need is the mother of invention. And in this case, the need is to continue to increase revenue,” said Ken Harris, managing partner of Cadent Consulting Group. “The best way to increase profits is to take a behavior that already exists and find new uses for that behavior.”

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Major food companies such as Kraft Heinz And Nestle saw a spike in sales early in the pandemic. As consumers began to eat in restaurants again and cook less, food manufacturers’ sales continued to rise thanks to double-digit price increases. But as buyers’ bills for groceries went up in 2022, they started buying cheaper options instead, resulting in lower volumes.

As inflation declines and retailers pressure suppliers to stop raising prices, food companies have had to look elsewhere for growth opportunities.

Adam Graves, president of Nestle’s US pizza and snacks division, said the company is building on the air fryer boom through its frozen food brands, especially to offer more value to shoppers.

“This is the biggest trend we’re seeing right now in modern cooking,” said Graves, who owns two deep fryers himself.

Last year, Nestle launched pizza under its DiGiorno and Stouffer’s brands. The packaging of both lines tells consumers, “Try it in the deep fryer.” Other Nestle products such as Hot Pockets now include instructions for deep frying as well as instructions for reheating in the microwave and oven.

Tyson Foods picked up on this trend relatively early with the launch of their air frying line in 2019. Products ranging from chicken strips to the latest addition, Parmesan-flavored chicken pieces, contain 75% less fat. Colleen Hall, Tyson’s senior brand marketing director, said the line has reached roughly $100 million in annual retail sales.

Tyson is also in the third phase of adding airfryer instructions to the packaging of its frozen convenience foods.

“If you look at how often it’s used as a prep method, it’s about 5%,” Hall said. “I think consumers want to use it more often, they need more options to use it. So it’s time for us to put it on our packaging.”

According to Hall, who cited recent brand health data, the fryer directions are boosting the Tyson brand’s popularity. She attributed this to the convenience of the appliance and the perceived health benefits of the cooking process.

For fish stick maker Gorton’s Seafood, expanding the use of air frying is a way to retain the customers it has acquired during the pandemic.

“[The pandemic] there was a pretty dramatic shift that brought a lot of new households into our category and brand,” Jake Holbrook, Gorton’s vice president of marketing, told CNBC. in this category and get Americans to eat more seafood.”

Footboard fills up

Air frying is the second most popular method of reheating frozen foods, Holbrook says.

The Nissui-owned company hit the trend by posting instructions on how to make an air fryer on its website. He then added instructions to the packaging. In January, the company introduced fried butterfly prawns and fish fillets.

The new butterfly shrimp and Gorton fish fillets have been cooked by air frying before packaging, but consumers can reheat the seafood by air frying it again. The product packaging states that it contains 50% less fat.

“Everyone will be jumping on this bandwagon for the next two years, as long as it’s trendy,” Harris said.

Other food manufacturers following this trend include Kellogg, which in early 2021, in response to customer requests, began including fryer instructions for its plant-based Morningstar Farms products. Also, Gormel Foods responds to consumer demand for deep fryers by updating its packaging and adding recipes to its website and YouTube cooking videos to make Spam French fries and Mary Kitchen Corned Beef Hash.

Nestle has gone one step further by targeting consumers who have not yet purchased an air fryer. In December, he partnered with Insta Brands, maker of the Insta Pot and his own version of the air fryer, to give away the appliance. A similar distribution was held inside Nestle US for their employees.

Graves estimates that about 60% of households in the United States currently own a deep fryer. But it’s not ubiquitous yet.

“If you compare it to a microwave — almost every home has a microwave — the fryer has a long way to go,” Harris said.

However, it is well on its way to joining the microwave as a staple in US kitchens. In 2022, the air fryer overtook grills and slow cookers to become the No. 4 kitchen appliance, according to the NPD Group.

“I think people originally thought [the air fryer] was something that could have been a fad,” Tyson Hall said. “It’s like the 1970s — people thought about the microwave the same way.”

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