It’s one thing to have a broad, bird’s eye view of grocery trends and shifts within the supermarket freezer case. Then again, each day finds Pinnacle Foods leaders looking very closely for ways to grow the Birds Eye frozen vegetable brand.

Sharon McGuire, Pinnacle Foods senior director of R&D, says her team has four goals: (1) make eating vegetables easier and more exciting; (2) remove artificial flavors and preservatives to make prepared frozen foods more appealing; (3) develop more value-added solutions to drive up trade; and (4) increase the relevance of the freezer case to Millennial consumers.

Speaking of consumers, it just so happens that they can help the new product development process.

“We started with powerful consumer insight,” notes McGuire. “In focus sessions, consumers say, ‘I’m always trying to find new ways to get my family to eat more vegetables. I wish they would eat them as readily as they do their favorite sides, like pasta.’”

McGuire says Pinnacle activates a cross-functional group—including Innovation/Brand teams, Consumer & Customer Insights, Product Development, Supply Chain and Sales—to advance new product ideas. One idea that successfully emerged was Birds Eye Veggie Made Pasta, which debuted in early 2017. 

The product comes packaged in Birds Eye’s Steamfresh microwavable bag and is ready in just minutes (with sauce included). Four varieties include Spinach Lentil Rotini with Alfredo Sauce; and three zucchini lentil options (penne and rotini forms) with Original (plain), Cheddar and Marinara sauces.

“It replicates the taste and texture of traditional pasta with penne and rotini made from real vegetables—such as zucchini, spinach and lentils,” says McGuire. “Unlike spiralized vegetable noodles, this pasta is extruded just like traditional pasta, making it a true replacement. All that’s missing is the wheat!” 

She concludes, “In launching Veggie Made Pasta, our team met its goals. And while it’s still early in the launch, consumer testing shows that we have hit on something big, and distribution and velocity metrics are already exceeding expectations.”