Freezers are getting popular again for shoppers who are stashing bulk-sized purchases of meats, fruits and vegetables as they work to combat rising food prices.
Across the country, shoppers bought more than 1.1 million freezers during the first six months of the year – up more than 7 percent from the same period last year, according to research firm NPD Group.
That rings up to nearly $400 million in freezer sales – a staggering figure compared to the rest of the home appliance sector, where industry data shows shipments are down nearly 8 percent.
And, experts said, it's a trend that's expected to continue at least through much of next year as penny-pinching shoppers buy in bulk to take advantage of deals or bundle grocery shopping trips to conserve gas.
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About half of all U.S. households already have a chest or upright freezer, separate from the refrigerator-freezer combo that's a kitchen stalwart, according to industry statistics.
To accommodate the rest – or cater to shoppers who want to upgrade to newer or more spacious models – some appliance makers are redesigning their products and marketing them as a way to put the freeze on rising food prices.
This summer, Frigidaire's revamped upright freezers began hitting stores, as the brand owned by Swedish manufacturer Electrolux AB added specially designed shelves, baskets and other features to accommodate the appliances' growing popularity.
The models retail between $399 and $799 and are a bright spot in the otherwise slowing appliance market, struggling as consumer spending and the housing market falter.
“Overall, these trends last a long period of time, because consumers adjust their buying habits and they change their routine,” said Marty O'Gorman, general manager of the freezer division of Electrolux Major Appliances.
Executives at home improvement chain Lowe's Cos. Inc. said they first noticed the rise in freezer sales this spring and correlated it to food prices.