Progressive Grocer

FEB 2017

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68 | Progressive Grocer | Ahead of What's Next | February 2017 R ecent product rollouts underscore the opportunities and challenges of devel- oping frozen entrées at a time when consumers have more choices than ever, both within and beyond the store. Case in point: Pittsburgh-based Kraft Heinz Co. introduced its Devour line of frozen meals last summer. Marketed as "craveable" meals designed to upend consumers' perception of frozen foods, the line offers a dozen varieties, including White Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Applewood Smoked Bacon, and a Pulled Chicken Burrito Bowl. "For years, there has been an unmet need in the frozen meal category for food that's not just dependable, but also something you look forward to eating," says Brand Manager Molly White. Other major food companies have introduced or revamped products in recent months. Chicago- based Conagra Brands has added four meals made with USDA-certified organic ingredients to its Healthy Choice Simply Café Steamers line. "One thing we heard from core Healthy Choice eaters is a desire to consume more organic foods," notes Alan Brooks, associate brand manager. Conagra has also refor- mulated the Bertolli line to feature a simpler ingredient list. "Growing consumer interest in simplified in- gredient statements is just one manifestation of what consumers are ultimately looking for. Accordingly, we are going beyond just simplifying our ingredient statements to ensure pre- sentation of our simple, premium ingredients is optimal at every con- sumer touchpoint," notes Brand Manager David Koehler, citing packaging features such as transpar- ent windows. Meanwhile, the influ- ence of specialty brands is visible with a spate of newer entrées, including those that fall under the natural or organic umbrella. Better for You Foods LLC, based in Delray Beach, Fla., has debuted a line of USDA-certified Organic Ancient Grains Pizzas. "is is a prime ex- ample of a product line developed to bridge the gap between the convenience of frozen pizza and the desire for healthy, natural foods," explains company owner Amy Lotker. At Austin, Texas-based Beeknik Foods, CEO David Perkins says that recipes are carefully balanced for authenticity and ease of prepara- tion. "Along the way, we've been able to integrate ingredients like cauliflower 'rice' into some prepared meals, which is not just for those who are looking to reduce carbs, but also for people wanting to try new things," he observes. Other brands stress the authenticity of in- gredients, such as High Point, N.C.-based Parla Pasta, rebranded last year from Drake's Home- made Pasta. "We use larger chunks of meats, vegetables and herbs, and our products do not include artificial or unnecessary additives," notes Mark Conahan, senior brand advisor. "Freezing is our 'natural' preservative, you might say." Frozen proteins are also expanding. Michael Angelo's Gourmet Foods Inc., in Austin, Texas, has recently added five frozen seafood entrées. "Studies show that seafood meals were largely underrepre- sented in the freezer aisle and are being demanded by Millennials and Gen Z," explains President Cheryl Renna, emphasizing the importance of collaboration with retailers. "We launched the seafood meals with an image on both sides of the box that could be Entrées Entrée to Success Frozen meals grow in size and scope. By Lynn Petrak

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