Food & Bev

How food brands are capitalizing on the air fryer boom

Food brands are adding air fryer cooking instructions and developing products specifically for the device.
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SeaPak/Hot Pockets/Instant Brands

· 4 min read

Sales of air fryers boomed during the pandemic, and today, frozen food brands are developing products specifically for the device, while social media influencers outdo themselves finding more to cook in it. This is Part 3 of a series.

If there’s a bar and bat mitzvah moment for a food appliance, a time when it puts away childish things and crosses the threshold to adulthood, it’s when established food brands go to the trouble and expense of including the device in the precious real estate of on-package cooking instructions.

So it’s time to hire a DJ and caterer and say mazel tov…because the air fryer isn’t sitting at the kids’ table any longer.

Major frozen food brands, from Hot Pockets to Gorton’s Seafood, are, in every sense, warming up to the air fryer. Along with including the device in cooking instructions, they’re partnering with air fryer brands and air fryer influencers.

Ciera Womack, director of marketing at Rich Products Corporation, which includes SeaPak, the battered and breaded fish brand, said that since “before Covid,” the company took note of air fryers.

“We started watching it as soon as it made its way into the market and we were like, ‘This isn’t going away,’” Womack told Retail Brew. “This is probably your new microwave–everybody’s got one.”

Plugging in: SeaPak surveyed customers who’d purchased SeaPak products in the past six months and found that nearly 90% owned air fryers.

Beginning in 2020, the company started putting air fryer cooking directions for its most popular items—like popcorn shrimp and butterfly shrimp—on packages, and today includes them on most, Womack said.

Because air fryers preheat quickly and have shorter cooking times, “They realized, ‘Hey, I can do this in an air fryer in eight to nine minutes without having to wait 15 minutes for my oven to preheat and then 15 or 20 more minutes’” to cook, Womack said.

Hot Pockets also added air fryer cooking instructions to packaging, as have fellow Nestlé brands Stouffer’s Bites and DiGiorno Personal Pizzas, Adam Graves, president of pizza and snacking at Nestlé USA, told Retail Brew in an email.

Along with promoting air frying Hot Pockets on Instagram, the company also partnered with air fryer maker Instant Brands and gave away 336 of the devices in December.

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Crispy business: Strong Roots, the plant-based frozen food company, reevaluated cooking instructions for all products two years ago, CEO and founder Samuel Dennigan told Retail Brew.

“A lot of these cooking instructions were based on the science of bacterial elimination as opposed to that and taste and texture and quality, and all the things that we love to eat food for,” Dennigan said.

In a literal bake-off, the company compared the results of cooking products in devices including conventional ovens, stovetops, and air fryers.

So impressive were the results for air fryers that the brand not only began adding cooking instructions on packages across its line but listed it as the top cooking method on about 30% of its products.

“It crisps better than anything else,” Dennigan said. “And this is why the craze is so prominent—because ultimately people want that crispy mouthfeel texture when they’re biting into snacks or comfort food.”

Lord of the fries: Lamb Weston, whose frozen potato brands include Grown in Idaho, conducted a study in January that found an estimated 66% of US households owned an air fryer, according to Jenna Rezendes, director of marketing for retail brands.

Lamb Weston began adding air fryer cooking instructions to packages in 2022, and is continuing the process throughout this year, Rezendes said in an email to Retail Brew.

Along with making “sure that our advertising visuals show air fryer usage,” she added, the company has partnered with @AirFryerPapi, who posts recipe videos to TikTok and Instagram.

Air to the throne: Knowing that consumers are looking online for new things to cook in their air fryers, Dennigan said Strong Roots purchases Google search ads so consumers searching for air-fryer content are served up ads for their products.

Strong Roots is also developing a line of products specifically for the device, which it will introduce in six to nine months, he said.

“These products are designed optimally for the air fryer both in size and recipe and makeup,” he said. It’s “all going to be based around the air fryer because, in the countries that we trade in, it’s becoming as common as a toaster or microwave.”

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