The demand for simpler ingredients continues to gain momentum. And as more consumers search for what they perceive as fresher, more natural food, they do not often find themselves in the frozen food aisle.  A problem for some health food marketers.

Partly because of its association with convenience, frozen foods do not get the health halo they often deserve. But there are a handful of smart brands out to change that. Lean Cuisine and Luvo seem to be in a race to connect with the valuable health-conscious consumer who still needs quick dinner solutions.

Let’s start with the relative newbie in the frozen aisle, Luvo. A brand that is on a crusade to change the perception that frozen isn’t just as good as fresh. Their philosophy: make it easy to make good choices by creating wholesome, nutritious meals that taste amazing. Luvo doesn’t believe you should have to sacrifice nutrition or taste in the name of convenience and that is a pretty radical new idea in frozen. All their meals contain a full serving of fruits or vegetables, an appropriate level of sodium and sugar, are high in fiber, and have whole grains and meats raised without antibiotics. As they tell us on their content-rich website, these are the kinds of meals the health-conscious would make in their own kitchens if they had the time. But we know (as does Luvo) that a good product alone may not be enough to win the hearts of Millennials. That’s why Luvo also happens to be a brand that intends to make the world a better place through food and nutrition – another new idea in frozen.

But if the relative old timer, Lean Cuisine has any say, Luvo won’t be the only healthy name in the freezer. In recent years, Lean Cuisine has been a problem for their parent company, Nestle USA. Their product lines, which have been focused on weight management, continue to fall out of favor with consumers, and their frozen food portfolio is in a serious slump. But Nestle’s health food marketers aren’t giving up. They recently invested $50 million in a new research and development center that underscores the company’s confidence in the future of frozen food. Jeff Hamilton, president of Nestlé’s prepared foods division stated, “we still believe the frozen category in general is a very rich and fertile category with lots of potential left in it.”

So armed with new insights, Lean Cuisine is attempting to make their food relevant to the way consumers are eating today. They are focusing on the source of their food, the recipes they are offering, and the quality of the ingredients they are putting into their products. They have reformulated much of their line and are now calling it “Cuisine with a purpose.” Sounds a lot like Luvo. And their new and improved website is definitely targeted at the consumers looking to improve their health through eating right, not dieting. Looks a lot like Luvo.

The fact that there are frozen brands leading the movement from diet-focus to health-focus is great news for the frozen category and for time-starved, health-conscious. The real question is will consumers be swayed by the authentically healthy brand that was created with them in mind, or the really big one that has been around longer and is now reinventing itself?  Health food marketers will just have to wait and see.

 

Can frozen convenience foods overcome a lifetime of unhealthy perceptions and win over today’s health-conscious consumers? The race is on.