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That’s not fast enough for some. “My grandmother says your meals are good, but I don’t understand why they have soooo much sodium,” Shayna Harris wrote on Lean Cuisine’s Facebook page. Bernstein Research says mothers are more concerned about the healthiness of frozen meals than any food item other than soda and sweet snacks.
Nestlé has responded with Lean Cuisine meals designed to be added to a salad for a quick dinner or lunch at the office. Dubbed Salad Additions, they include dressing and toppings like crispy noodles. To capture shoppers’ attention, Nestlé convinced Kroger to put freezer cases in the produce section of some of its supermarkets.
Not all frozen-food purveyors are struggling. Sales of Amy’s Kitchen’s organic vegetarian meals like black bean veggie enchiladas rose 13 percent to $240 million in the year ended Feb. 25, according to Nielsen. Hillshire Brands, the meat business spun out of Sara Lee Corp., will take its Jimmy Dean brand beyond breakfast this year with smoked bacon mac and cheese. And Iglo Group Ltd., Europe’s biggest frozen-food company, is helping retailers redesign freezer aisles to look like restaurants or fish markets.
“People want to be inspired to eat food,” said Iglo Chief Executive Elio Leoni Sceti, “not a bag of ice.”
If Nestlé can’t turn around Lean Cuisine, it should consider selling the business, says Rob Dickerson, an analyst at Consumer Edge Research. Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke has said the company will no longer tolerate poor performers, and has sold PowerBar energy snacks and most of its Jenny Craig diet centers.
“Frozen food isn’t dead; it’s just that consumers haven’t been given what they want,” Dickerson said. “Nestlé needs to decide whether it will reinvigorate their part of the frozen category. If it’s not worth the investment, it’s got to go.”