Premium products are driving the growth of the frozen foods category, which was valued at US$28bn in 2005.

Packaged Facts has predicted that the annual growth rate of the frozen food segment will top 2.8% to reach $32bn 2010. Much of this growth will come from the launch of new premium and health products onto the market.

The research identified time-stretched families as a key demographic in the rise of frozen foods, but emphasised that the meaning of "family" has changed and suggested that frozen food manufacturers must recognise this.

"Meeting the frozen food needs of empty nesters, DINKs, and marrieds without children at home-today's dominant household unit-has become crucial to success," the report said.

Innovations that have begun to make their mark on the category, including re-sealable packaging, individual portion-sizes, multi-serve and portion-controlled packaging.

"Consumers are being bombarded with fresh food choices in retail, which is a huge challenge to frozen foods," said Don Montuori, the publisher of Packaged Facts. "People want frozen foods to be quick, easy, and taste like restaurant quality as they seek to upgrade their home meals with world flavours, high nutrition and gourmet fare."