Stouffer's has added a line of frozen dinners called Fit Kitchen: six choices including Cilantro Lime Chicken and Bourbon Steak.
Each package prominently displays within a wide black stripe the item's rather high protein content, as well as the "Fit Kitchen" lettering in white and a gray that resembles stainless steel. Mr. Tidbit guesses that this tricolor palette is supposed to evoke the modern kitchen (avocado and harvest gold are utterly absent). The top edge of each box is oddly beveled in an arc, a packaging feat that might represent a range/oven control panel. Or not; Mr. Tidbit might have taken too much of his perceptiveness medication.
In any case, the high protein content is one of several approaches grocery firms are taking to woo shoppers who seem to be heading for fare that's made with more stylish, more nutritionally targeted and/or more "real" ingredients.
Fit Kitchen Bourbon Steak with chipotle mashed sweet potatoes, seasoned broccoli and red peppers, for example, has 27 grams of protein in the 13 1/8-ounce package. The 14-ounce package of Stouffer's Restaurant Selects Bourbon Steak Tips with Cheddar ranch mashed potatoes has only 20 grams of protein — and more calories, fat and carbohydrate.
At one online store, where the Stouffer's Restaurant Selects dinners sell for $3.50, the Fit Kitchen items go for $4.29.
Over at Healthy Choice, what was not long ago a little subcategory, Café Steamers, threatens to take over. While there are 20 Healthy Choice frozen dinners and 10 Baked Entrees, the number of Café Steamers has reached 35: 11 Top Chef, five Asian Inspired, five 100% Natural, three gluten-free, three just-plain Café Steamers and eight new ones that seem to fit with the consumer preferences Mr. Tidbit keeps hearing about: four Protein + Whole Grain and four Cafe Steamers called Simply.
Mr. Tidbit warns you not to confuse what he called "just-plain" Café Steamers with Simply Café Steamers. Plain is not Simple. Each of the Simply Café Steamers has a comparatively shortlist of ingredients, almost all of which you'd recognize as food. Not so true of "just-plain" Café Steamers. Such a distinction isn't free, of course. At one store, most of the Café Steamers were $2.79; Simply Café Steamers were $3.29.