Consumers’ lack of time and the inclination to cook at home has processors dishing up a variety of new heat-and-eat entrées.
The market for easy-to-prepare, value-added meat and poultry entrées continues to flourish, with processors developing a flood of new products for the time-starved consumer. Chicago-based Information Resources’ most recent data for refrigerated dinners/entrées place the market at more than $690 million in U.S. retail sales, up 2.9 percent over the previous year.
Morton Grove, IL-based Smithfield RMH Foods Group’s Flavoré brand of heat-and-serve entrées, uniquely featuring bold, enticing flavors from around the world, was among the most talked about new introductions of 2004. The chef-inspired product varieties, including Beef Burgundy, Chicken Alfredo, Island Grill Chicken, Italian Style Meatloaf, Marinara with Meatballs, Mexicana Style Pork, Southwestern Style Meatloaf, and Yankee Pot Roast, combine protein and sauces in one bag, a starch side in another bag, and a separate garnish pouch.
Flavoré packaging offers multiple preparation methods, as well as wine and side dish recommendations. “It isn’t just the food, it’s the experience,” notes Kim Barden, retail brand manager for Smithfield Foods. “We’re not just selling beef and sauce, we are trying to revolutionize how consumers perceive the [heat-and-eat entrée] category.”
Heating up the frozen entrée category, Omaha, NE-based ConAgra Foods recently rolled out Banquet Crock-Pot Classics, the first complete meal designed and created for Crock-Pot slow-cooking. The meals contain all of the ingredients needed for a slow-cooked meal such as tender meats, fresh vegetables, hearty potatoes, and seasoned sauces, and are ready to cook with less than five minutes of preparation.
“[Consumers] don't have to worry about what’s for dinner at the end of the day when they are using their Crock-Pot,” explains John Hanson, vice president of marketing for Banquet. Varieties include Beef Stew, Chicken and Dumplings, Chicken with Redskin Potatoes and Vegetables, Creamy Chicken Pasta, Herb Chicken and Rice, and Stroganoff with Beef and Noodles. NP