New Prepared Meals & Entrees
A look at new prepared meals and entree products making a debut in March 2019
VEGETABLES, PROTEIN, FLAVOR
Last December saw B&G Foods Inc., Parsippany, N.J., introduce Green Giant Harvest Protein Bowls.
All four varieties have 12g to 14g of protein; include whole grains such as quinoa, lentils, ancient grains and more; are vegetarian and have no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Green Giant Harvest Protein Bowls also go from the freezer to mealtime in under six minutes.
“Because Green Giant is a major force in the frozen veggies category, we have been flooded with requests from families to create a simple frozen meal solution that helps consumers increase their protein consumption while using our popular vegetables as a base,” says Jordan Greenberg, vice president and general manager, Green Giant. “Green Giant Harvest Protein Bowls offer Green Giant fans a simple and delicious meal that are a good source of protein—and are ideal for a quick, nutritious lunch at the office, snack or dinner on-the-go.”
Green Giant Harvest Protein Bowls varieties include California Style, Asian Style, Southwest Style and Italian Style. They carry a suggested retail price of $3.99.
Separately B&G licenses the Green Giant Fresh brand to Growers Express LLC, Salinas, Calif., which also launched six Vegetable Meal Bowls last October in supermarket refrigerated produce departments (SRG: $3.99). The line emphasizes global flavors with a Buddha Bowl, Burrito Bowl, Fried Rice Bowl, Ramen Bowl, Pad Thai Bowl and a Rancheros Bowl.
Last fall saw EVOL Foods, Boulder, Colo., introduce a four-item line of Modern Nutrition Bowls.
“Today’s consumers are more conscious than ever about the food they eat and the products they buy,” said Sebastian Nava, research chef with EVOL Foods. “Our new Modern Nutrition Bowls offer a variety of vitamins, proteins and whole grains to provide tailored benefits to our customers.”
Here’s how EVOL describes each new variety:
*Warrior Bowl (“Be Powerful”): A good source of iron, the Warrior Bowl is also a good source of protein to tackle the day’s challenges and made with seared beef, edamame, carrots, broccoli, red bell pepper and green onion over brown rice with a sesame miso glaze. Delivers 15g protein, 38g whole grains.
*Vitalize Bowl (“Be Energized”): A strong blend of fiber and protein for energy, the Vitalize Bowl is made with grilled chicken, carrots, spinach, red bell peppers, and feta cheese crumbles over a brown rice and lentils blend with a tangy tahini and feta sauce. Delivers 19g protein, half cup of vegetables, 8g fiber.
*Boost Bowl (“Be Well”): The Boost Bowl is an excellent source of vitamin A and keeps you feeling great with a mixture of delicious vegetables. Ingredients include soba noodles, carrots, broccoli, edamame, red bell pepper, cashews and green onions, in a creamy cashew sauce. Delivers 16g whole grains, half cup of vegetables.
*Balance Bowl (“Be Centered”): An exceptionally balanced meal, the Balance Bowl features grilled chicken, sweet potato, asparagus, and yellow peppers on red rice with a basil pesto sauce. Delivers 13g protein, half cup of vegetables and 41g whole grains.
FISH ENTREES, SAUCES
This month saw LoveTheWild, Boulder, Colo., relaunch its sustainably-farmed fish kits including several new easy-to-prepare meal solutions “to satisfy the bold taste buds of the most discerning, sustainable-centric ‘foodies’ with equally demanding standards for quality, nutrition and convenience.”
Three new flavor offerings are Barramundi with Mango Sriracha, Shrimp with Cajun Crème and a Rainbow Trout with Salsa Verde.
In conjunction, LoveTheWild shifted to a smaller, 5.3oz box and switched from a recyclable plastic sauce tray to a plant-based fully compostable tray and film. The company also reduced entrée portion sizes by 2oz to align with the USDA recommended serving size, and to eliminate leftover waste. (Customers indicated the original portion size was too generous for a single meal, the company says). In turn, LoveTheWild also reduced its suggested retail price by 30% to $6.99.
“This is such a perfect time to relaunch LoveTheWild,” says Jacqueline Claudia, CEO and founder of LoveTheWild. “The introduction of several new products, the completely new ‘look and feel’ of these products, and the positive impact that the new packaging design will have on the environment, all represent our innovative, progressive and bold approach to the market. The relaunch better reflects who we truly are as a brand today.”
LoveTheWild products include sustainable farm-raised fish kits with entrees paired with bold sauces; and a second line of microwavable bowls. Claudia says each offering is prepared to complement the fish species’ unique taste and origin—with every fish traceable back to the source. Products are available online and nationwide at retailers including Whole Foods, Target, FreshDirect and Wegmans.
Last fall saw Cece’s Veggie Co., Austin, Texas, introduce a new line of shells and cheese made from organic butternut squash. Cece’s Veggie Co. Butternut Shells & Cheese and other new offerings debuted at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore.
A remake of the classic mac and cheese made with pasta, Cece’s butternut version is gluten-free and offers fresh, 100% organic butternut squash cut into elbow-style shells, perfect for cradling the organic cheese that accompanies the squash shells. Cece’s offers both a dairy-based cheddar cheese sauce and a vegan cheddar cheez option, both prepped and ready to heat-and-eat with no additional ingredients required. Officials say the vegan Shells & Cheez sauce is the first organic vegan “cheese” sauce for pasta on the market.
“Delivering a full serving of veggie nutrition in every bowl, Cece’s Butternut Shells & Cheese is a game-changer for busy families looking for healthy, organic meal solutions that taste delicious,” said Mason Arnold, founder of Cece’s Veggie Co. “Anyone who has kids is going to jump for joy when they try the butternut shells. They check all the boxes – healthy, easy, and kiddo-approved.”
Last fall saw Spinato’s Fine Foods Inc., Tempe, Ariz., expand its retail line with four new frozen pizzas featuring a plant-based, broccoli crust.
New frozen broccoli crust pizza varieties are Slow-Roasted Tomato Margherita; Mediterranean Supreme; Primavera; and Aged Asiago, Romano & Mozzarella. Spinato’s says the pizzas feature handmade pizza sauce and fresh ingredients. In conjunction with launch, Spinato’s says it introduced newly redesigned packaging and upgraded all of its pizzas to a larger 10inch size. The company also offers certified gluten free pizzas, in addition to pasta sauces and salad dressings.
“We’re genuinely excited to release our new broccoli crust pizzas with the re-launch of our overall retail brand,” says Spinato’s President Anthony Spinato. “We want our retail partners to remain competitive; not only offering the best tasting gluten free pizzas available, but also this first-to-market plant-based broccoli crust. Our new line of broccoli crust pizzas will deliver another unique taste experience that will resonate with today’s demanding and time-pressed consumers. The new branding is our way of expressing our commitment to provide high quality frozen pizzas that encourage consumers to cook and connect over a shared meal.”
Officials say the new packaging “reflects Mediterranean artistry—accentuating the company’s passion for quality ingredient and handmade specialty pizzas.” They add that each variety has distinct graphic imagery to reflect that particular flavor.
R&D the Old Way? Put a Fork in It.
New strategic plans drives Nestlé entrée innovation
Understandably, some innovation details are meant to be kept behind closed doors. Yet there are times when it’s okay to talk and take a peek at what’s inside those doors. In late 2017, Nestlé Chief Strategy Officer Rui Barbas penned an online blog post titled, “How Nestlé USA is Innovating like a Startup.”
Here, in some excerpts, he observed, “…. though Nestlé has been able to thrive for a century and a half because of our innovation, we’ve never before seen the kinds of dramatic shifts in the market—from consumer habits, behavior, and engagement with brands to how goods are purchased—that we’ve witnessed in the past 10 to 15 years.”
And he added, “For Nestlé, this consumer revolution means that we either wait for someone to disrupt us, or we disrupt ourselves. Spoiler alert: We’re choosing the latter. But controlled disruption must be strategic, not erratic. At Nestlé, we’re taking a multi-pronged approach to strengthen our base brands and build new horizons. We are coupling our broad capabilities, know-how and scale with a startup’s speed and mindset to everything we do—and that begins with innovation.”
Barbas outlined a five-point strategic plan that includes (1) innovating base brands, (2) launching internal incubators, (3) leveraging external partnerships, (4) pursuing complementary acquisitions or investments and (5) building new growth platform capabilities.
Interestingly, many of Nestlé USA’s strategic activities since then have involved prepared meals, entrees and pizza—categories in which the company already is heavily invested. For the record, Nestlé USA is parent to such well-known freezercase brands as Stouffer’s, Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine, Hot Pockets, DiGiorno, Tombstone, Jack’s and California Pizza Kitchen.
In keeping with its strategic plan, Nestlé USA has ….
… revisited its base brands. It has expanded its Stouffer’s line to include organics as well as a complete prepared meal kits.
… made complementary investments and acquisitions. In June 2017, it acquired a minority interest in Freshly Inc., a New York City-based provider of direct-to-consumer healthy prepared meals. In September 2017, it acquired Sweet Earth Foods, a Moss Landing, Calif., maker of plant-based frozen entrees.
… launched “internal startups” in which “intrapreneurs” can rapidly develop new product lines with lean designs, fast prototyping, and quick in-market testing. Nestlé’s Foundry Foods Inc. incubator already has launched Wildscape Foods, a healthy frozen meals business; and Outsiders Pizza, a disruptive pizza business with new flavors honoring local tastes (and different ingredient combinations) from places such as Detroit and Milwaukee, Wis.
Wildscape already has made news for its entrées that come packaged in clear, fully reusable and recyclable containers. Wildscape earned a NEXTY award for “Best New Packaging Innovation” at the Natural Products Expo East last September. Wildscape meals come in six different varieties, such as Gochujang Cauliflower with Brussel Sprouts, Chickpeas, Quinoa, Riced Cauliflower, Cashews and Pickled Onions.
Barbas noted, “Agile and quick now coexists with more traditional approaches to innovation. What once was a multi-year process can now happen in just a few months. Also acting to satisfy consumer desires, the narrative and packaging of these products—as well as digital-first marketing—serve as differentiators. This innovation model allows us to go places we have not been able to go before and has launched new innovative products and brands to meet the evolving needs of our consumers.”
Meal Kits in Transition
Packaged Facts sees maturing market with retail competition, shifting consumer preferences.
When meal kit delivery services first emerged in Sweden back in 2007, the premise seemed simple enough: offer busy customers the chance to save a lot of time, have access to a wide variety of food choices, eat healthily, improve their cooking skills, and limit the amount of food waste.
Shortly after reaching America more than five years ago, market research firm Packaged Facts estimated meal kits had become a fast growing billion-dollar business in the U.S. Since then, time has tempered both growth and expectations for meal kits though the future remains promising. “Meal Kits: Trend and Opportunities in the U.S., 3rd Edition,” a new report by Packaged Facts, forecasts the industry will continue to expand and grow healthily through 2023—albeit at rates more modest than previously anticipated.
Packaged Facts estimates the US meal kit market had sales of $2.6 billion in 2017 and will grow almost 22% by the end of 2018 to reach $3.1 billion. Growth is forecast to steadily decline from double-digit gains during the next few years to single-digit gains by 2023.
Packaged Facts anticipates that the market for subscription meal kit delivery services will mature rapidly as other methods of meal kit sales become available and even preferred, such as one-time online orders from a meal kit website or app, online orders from a grocery store website or app, and in-store sales.
As a result, future growth in the market will require industry leaders to continue pivoting and adjusting their business models to retain current customers and reach new clientele. Long-term, Packaged Facts concludes that as more traditional stores offer meal kits as a product rather than as a service, the market will stabilize and become similar to other convenience grocery items that sell for a premium, such as pre-cut fresh produce that is ready-to-eat.
“The meal kit market is highly dynamic and prone to fluctuations, with the top meal kit providers falling in and out of favor since their introduction in the past few years,” says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “Further complicating things, market expansion is expected to be much more reliant on alternative purchase venues than the traditional subscription delivery model due in part to the convenience and flexibility of online shopping.”
The advent of online grocery shopping has made customers more comfortable than ever with ordering fresh food online and has contributed to the expansion of the online market for meal kits. However, the problem for traditional subscription model is that the “on-demand” nature of online shopping through companies such as Amazon and the evolution of e-commerce over the past few years has led to consumers expecting convenience and near-instant gratification.
The subscriptions most meal kit delivery services provide often clash with the “on-demand” mentality of potential meal kit customers, who want to be able to buy the products they want whenever they want. Subscriptions attempt to entice more purchases and even when flexible, can lead to customers purchasing more than they want to buy at a given time to avoid increased fees.
“It is unsurprising that many meal kit companies have been struggling to attract new customers and maintain existing ones under the subscription model. Paired with the retention problem is the struggle with attaining profitability due to the high costs of shipping fresh ingredients directly to consumers,” says Sprinkle. “These challenges demand that meal kit companies tweak their business models and find alternative ways to reach customers, as the potential market for meal kits as a product is much larger than the interest in meal kit delivery services as they currently exist.”