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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sharing the Love with evol Burritos


A new frozen burrito, evol, from Phil’s Fresh Foods, Boulder, Colo., was a big hit at the recent Natural Products Expo East event at the Boston Convention Center. The natural and organic evol (love spelled backwards) burrito is available in four sizes—7 oz. premium burrito, 7 oz. premium wrap, 3 oz. mini burrito and 8 oz. burrito.

The folks at Phil’s have dubbed the mini burrito as the “energy bar of the frozen food section.” The mini is available in five flavors: chicken, bean and rice; chicken and black bean; bean and cheddar; shredded beef; and veggie fajita.

The premium burrito is available in three flavors: fire grilled chicken fajita; fire grilled steak fajita; and pork canitas. The three premium wraps are all dairy-free: teriyaki chicken; veggie curry; and Mediterranean couscous.

The 8 oz. burrito is available in the following flavors: chicken, bean and rice; shredded beef; egg and potato; pinto bean, rice and cheese; cilantro lime chicken; veggie fajita; basic bean and cheese; tofu and spinach sauté; egg and sausage; egg and green chile; and pork and green chile.

Officials with evol say the products are made with locally sourced ingredients, certified humane cage-free eggs, free-range chicken, humanely-raised and sustainably sourced meat and RBST-free cheese.

TFFG Says: It was while chatting up another frozen food vendor in his booth at the natural products show that The Frozen Food Guy spotted one of the mini burritos. It was upside down and lying not far from the vendor’s packages (a seafood company), so TFFG was mildly curious but not wanting to interrupt the vendor’s presentation with a “what’s that on the table?” since it clearly wasn’t part of the product line under discussion. He was “on message” and I didn’t want to derail him and have him go “off message,” so to speak.

Later, the TFFG was perusing all the various products on display in the new product section at the front of the exhibition floor area when he spotted the “evol” burrito. While jotting down notes about the product, another convention attendee shared—totally unsolicited—with TFFG how very good these frozen burritos truly are. So, TFFG made a personal visit to the evol booth and got the pertinent info and gave the mini burrito a test run (or two) himself. Thumbs up, evol!

And ya gotta love the “e-v-o-l” (backwards) right?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Smith Rolls Out Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream


Smith Dairy of Orrville, Ohio, clearly has the right idea about fall and ice cream. Smith has just introduced its seasonal ice cream flavor for fall, Ruggles Pumpkin Pie ice cream.

Ruggles Pumpkin Pie features premium pumpkin
pie ice cream and pieces of pie crust.

Ruggles Pumpkin Pie features premium pumpkin pie flavored ice cream and pie crust pieces.

“We always look forward to the autumn appearance of our Ruggles Pumpkin Pie ice cream as the kickoff of our holiday season,” says Penny Baker, director of marketing, Smith Dairy. “Our customers enjoy our Pumpkin Pie flavor throughout the fall season, and shortly after that, our winter holiday flavors are available.”

Smith doesn’t just stop with rolling out a pumpkin pin flavored ice cream, it also puts out a recipe, in this case, Ruggles Pumpkin Pie Iced Mocha Milkshake, which is a lighter, less-sweet milkshake that makes great use of that extra coffee that just gets poured down the drain. Here is the recipe which serves two:

1 cup cold strong coffee—frozen into about 10 cubes
2 cups Ruggles Pumpkin Pie ice cream
¼ cup whole milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Freeze leftover coffee in ice cube tray to use in your milkshakes. One cup liquid equals about 10 cubes.
Crush the coffee ice cubes in a blender. Add the remaining ingredients with enough milk for desired consistency. 2% reduced fat, 1% low fat or fat-free skim milk may be substituted.

Pumpkin Pie ice cream is available during October while supplies last in the market area served by Smith Dairy, which is Ohio and parts of Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Suggested retail price for a 1.75-quart is $5.29 to $5.99.

TFFG SAYS: Too bad more ice cream companies don’t issue seasonal flavors. The best we seem to get is a baseball-themed ice cream, which usually means they just gussy up the packaging and call it the “ice cream of the New York Yankees” or something along those lines. Big deal. Show me an authentic Yankee blue pinstripes and premium ice cream and we’ll talk.

Smith and its Ruggles brand are spot-on with their terrific line of seasonal ice creams and this is just a run-up to all the great ice creams and dairy products (eggnog among them) that they roll out for the Christmas holidays.

A neat twist on this milkshake recipe might be a shot of brandy or rum, which then makes it a Super Duper Rum Pumpkin Pleaser! What better way to stave off the first frost of the year while basking under a bright, full “harvest moon.” It could be just the thing that a harried hostess needs after a long, hard Thanksgiving day of turkey roasting, mashed potato making, pie baking, dish washing——and a houseful of (gasp) in-laws!!

Friday, October 8, 2010 Launches Grocery Server

OFFERS DEALS, INGREDIENTS FOR HEALTHY RECIPES, the website of Prevention magazine, has launched a Grocery Server tool to help shoppers search for money-saving deals at grocery stores within their area.

Located in’s Healthy Recipe Finder section, the tool lets users plug in their zip code, as well as search by store, product and product category to receive deals. They can also use the tool to see if local stores carry the ingredients suggested by recipes in the site’s Healthy Recipe Finder.

Prevention’s Grocery Server is offered by Grocery Server, a joint venture between Qponix and

TFFG Says: This is a pretty nifty component to The announcement from Rodale, publisher of Prevention and, makes note of the “Healthy Recipe Finder” section the website, but the actual button the on the site’s navigation bar is under “Recipes” and there are two different links marked “Recipe Finder” that take you to the recipe finder page, and this being Prevention magazine, all the recipes are pretty much healthy.

The grocery shopper tool is neat. Just click on the “Find Grocery Deals” link which is just above “Recipe Finder” link on the left side of the page. Shoppers can search through various food categories and find the prices on each item in the individual food stores in a particular area. For example, in New York (TFFG’s area), it offers the option of searching “all stores” or breaking it down to one of 18 stores listed, including D’Agostino, Food Emporium, Wegmans, Whole Foods and others. It then lists what’s available under types of products and the cost of each.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

6-Pack: Trends Influencing Grocery Shoppers


The August Dairy-Deli-Bake Digest newsletter from the International Dairy, Deli, Bakery Association (IDDBA) includes information from California Grocer magazine that identifies six trends this year that are changing the grocery shopping environment:

1. Value is King: Private label will gain market share at branded products expense. Consumer will continue to increase their shopping occasions with discounters. Promotions and hot deals will drive traffic to those stores (via the discounter’s low pricing format).

2. Ad Spending Improves and Goes Digital: Brands will be forced to increase their ad and consumer promotion spending to drive sales volume and add value. Consumer advertising budgets will be up 15-25% on average with increased emphasis on internet and social media spending.

3. Health Drives the Consumer: Consumers are buying more healthful products (increased fibers, reduced sugar/salt, improved nutrition). Consumers will renew their love affair with natural and organic products.

4. Pricing Remains Stable: Commodity prices should not be a problem. Pricing will be stable and somewhat boring compared to previous price swings.

5. Mergers and Competition Intensify: Look for increased consolidation and acquisitions. There will be heavy activity for smaller private food manufacturers with strong sales in branded or private label manufacturing.

6. Home Cooking But Not Really: Consumers will continue with focus on home over restaurants for family food consumption. Consumers want to eat at home but they really don’t want to cook, just have it look like it. Restaurant activity will pick up but only if the economy improves to include job creation. Should be a good environment for branded and private label food manufacturers. Food retailers will have it a little tougher with a greater amount of pressure on margins.

TFFG Says: Some really good stuff here. Although “health drives the consumer” and “not cooking at home” are pretty much at odds with each other. It’s more a case of “lots of emphasis on words on the packaging like ‘healthy’ and ‘health benefits’ will attract shoppers.” I’m not sure shoppers with one hand pushing a grocery cart and another reaching for the products on the shelves are really going to have the time or inclination to deal with a hand-held device. It’s challenging enough for most shoppers just to deal with a paper grocery list (making, keeping, finding as in not losing it before getting to the store) which can be pretty much kept in hand while pushing the cart and holding and handling the products.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Editors Swoon Over Naan Pizza


Accolades are pouring in for the new Naan pizza line launched by Tandoor Chef. Real Simple magazine included the Roasted Eggplant flavor of Tandoor Chef’s Original Naan Pizza as one of 10 frozen pizzas that it “road tested” in its September issue.

As the subdeck in the article asked, “pizza guy can’t come soon enough?” and answering itself, “then try one of these store-bought shortcuts. Real Simple baked up 79 pies* and found 10 that delivered.” The asterisk is explained on the page, “that all pizzas tested were free of partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.”

The 10 pizzas each fall under a category with Tandoor Chef listed under “Best Eggplant.”

The editors at Cooking Light magazine are also ga-ga over Tandoor Chef’s Naan, as they named the Margherita flavor as Grand Prize Winner in the Pizza Category in its first Taste Test Awards.
Cooking Light conducted a blind test of 200 products in 32 categories to find the best tasting products on grocery store shelves.  The winners were included in the October issue of Cooking Light which hit the newsstands on Sept. 17.

Tandoor Chef, produced by Deep Foods, Union, N.J., is a maker of all-natural frozen Indian foods. The all-natural, vegetarian Naan pizza is hand-stretched and then fired in a clay Tandoor oven at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition to Roasted Eggplant and Margherita, the other flavors in the four-flavor line are Cilantro Pesto, and Spinach & Paneer Cheese.

TFFG Says: Those headline writers at Real Simple are pretty clever with their word play (pizza guy coming and 10 “that delivered”). I like that.

This Naan pizza is very tasty, as I sampled a few bites at the Fancy Food Show in New York a few months ago while having a nice chat Mike Ryan, vice president of advertising, for Tandoor Chef and Deep Foods. Looks like some of these New York magazine editors might have also been sampling at the Tandoor Chef booth!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tainted Fruit Bars, Nuggets Get Yanked


Recent mega food recalls of contaminated ground beef and eggs (half a billion!) have overshadowed the recall of two frozen food items.

The Associated Press reports that Paleta California Co. of Santa Springs, Calif., recalled its mamey (mah-MAY) frozen fruit bars because of a possible link to a rare U.S. outbreak of typhoid fever and Perdue Farms Inc., Perry, Ga., recalled thousands of pounds of frozen chicken nugget products that officials say could contain foreign materials.

First, let’s look at the frozen fruit bars. Paleta California says the Mamey Supreme Cream Bars were distributed only in Southern California.

The company says the frozen fruit bars were sold in retail stores and have the following UPC number: 636418002000.

The company says the frozen fruit bars were made from contaminated mamey pulp that Goya Foods Inc. voluntarily recalled on Aug. 12, after it was linked to a typhoid fever outbreak in California and Nevada. So far no illnesses have been reported from the mamey fruit bars.

Mamey, or zapote (zah-POH-teh), is a fruit popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.

AP reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that the Perdue Farms chicken products include 1-pound, 13-ounce bags of Great Value Fully Cooked Chicken Nuggets.

Officials are recalling approximately 91,872 pounds of the nuggets after the privately held company discovered small pieces of blue plastic, following consumer complaints.

Agriculture authorities have not gotten any reports of injuries.

Each bag bears the establishment number P-33944 as well as a case code of 80990A0160.

TFFG SAYS: Yikes! Imagine noshing on some chicken nuggets chock-a-block full of “foreign objects” (what the ---?) while you whip up a batch of meatloaf with both E. coli contaminated ground beef and eggs and then top it all off with a tasty, cool typhoid fever-inducing mamey bar (“supreme,” no less). Talk about double/quadruple indemnity. It’s like “choose your poison”—four different ways! I still can’t get over that egg situation. And it’s really more than HALF A BILLION. The real tally is 550 million. That’s HALF A BILLION eggs plus another 50 million! A recall of 50 million would be completely over the top, but 5 – 5 – 0 million?! That’s just plain criminal.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A&P Down, Trader Joe’s Up


The landscape for grocery shopping continues to shift in the Northeast, and especially in the New York area.

The venerable A&P chain is heading into near extinction while the upstart Trader Joe’s is set to open its third store in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Whole Foods continues to be a destination store for both urbanites and suburbanites.

A&P is actually one of seven store “banners” that come under the umbrella of its corporate parent, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. But the stores first started by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. back in 1856 in New York have always been known just as A&P. In some communities, the stores were so well known, shoppers referred to them as “the A&P.”

A&P announced last month that it would close 25 stores. Today’s A&P corporation, based in Montvale, N.J., includes the A&P banner along with Waldbaum’s, Pathmark, Food Emporium, Super Fresh and Food Basics.

New President and CEO Sam Martin said in a statement that “as part of our turnaround, we have initiated a detailed review of our store footprint and have decided to close these 25 locations. While this was a very difficult decision that will unfortunately impact some of our customers, partners, communities and employees, these actions are absolutely necessary to strengthen A&P’s operating foundation and improve our performance going forward. We will help our affected colleagues pursue other positions across the company should other positions be available.”

A&P officials would not say which stores under which banners would be closed, but a TFFG follower in Greenwhich, Conn., tell us that the A&P Fresh, a sub-brand of A&P, was recently shuttered and has a “space for lease” sign in the window.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that A&P is planning to sell off the entire Food Emporium chain, and it was not included in the announcement of which of its seven banners would actually close. And now A&P has announced the sale of seven stores in northern Connecticut to Big Y Foods, a chain of 56 supermarkets and one liquor/wine store based in Springfield, Mass.

According to the Middletown Register in Middletown, Conn., the seven stores purchased by Big Y—a deal that will close by the end of next month—are A&P stores in Middletown, Mystic, Old Lyme, West Hartford, Branford, East Haven and Naugatuck.

TFFG SAYS: This is more sad news coming from what was once the nation’s preeminent grocery retailer. According to the Supermarket News Top 75, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (GAP on the New York Stock Exchange) is now just the 18th largest, surpassed long ago by national food retailing chains like Wal-Mart, Costco and B.J.s, and even discount retailer Dollar General. The [former] CEO of A&P doesn’t even rank among the top 50 leaders in the grocery industry as compiled by Supermarket News while John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, is 19th; Rick Dreiling, chairman and CEO of Dollar General, is 20th; and Dan Bane, chairman and CEO of Trader Joe’s, is 21st.

When I first moved to the New York area in 1990, A&P was the old reliable store you found on the main streets of the suburban communities and in the old neighborhoods in the city itself. Waldbaum’s and Pathmark were the glitzy “big stores” with huge parking lots. Over the years, “GAP” has acquired both Pathmark and Waldbaum’s yet these stores continue to lose market share in the New York/Northeast area where GAP stores operate. Current GAP tally: 429 stores in 8 states (Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) and the District of Columbia.

I remember the old A&P just off Plandome Road in downtown Manhasset and the nice, big Waldbaum’s next to the Americana shopping center on the iconic Miracle Mile of Northern Boulevard in Manhasset. Just down the road on Northern Boulevard toward Greenvale and Roslyn was the spacious and gleaming Pathmark.

Now folks out there make a beeline to Stop & Shop and Whole Foods.

When I moved to the Upper West Side a dozen years ago there was a nice, no-frills A&P on West End Avenue and a Food Emporium on Broadway at 73d. Location, location, location, indeed. As proof of how valuable a location for the A&P, the single-story building that housed the A&P came down, so of course the store closed, but the space was filled by a glitzy new condo tower. So what is there now, on the same site (in the new building)? A no-frills Rite Aid drugstore. What’s up with that, A&P? And the upstart Jubilee chain (threes stores in Manhattan only) opened in one of the new Trump-built 30-story towers that line the Hudson River on Riverside Park South just a block away.

The Food Emporium (with its sky high prices) closed but was replaced by a Gristede’s that was just short of awful (sullen checkers, dysfunctional technology, and a freezer door case that was frozen over solid for more than a month!!!). And today in that same location, location, location? A very successful Loehman’s ready-to-wear store.

This is case of having things literally slip between your fingers. I am sure that powers-that-be (an ongoing revolving-door collection) at A&P corporate headquarters in northern NJ justify all this as being done “for shareholder value” and all that claptrap.

Oh wait, here is what else CEO Martin said: “We are moving forward aggressively to advance our turnaround and position A&P for a strong future. Even as we reduce our store base and drive efficiencies across our company, A&P continues to remodel stores and take other important steps to enhance our customer’s experience across our store formats. To this end, we are set to reopen two newly remodeled stores in the coming months.”

Well, uh, he couldn’t say much about shareholder value now, could he, as the stock trades for a measly $3.74 a share (as of 3 p.m. today) on the New York Stock Exchange. Comparatively, Wal-Mart’s stock trades at $53 a share and the price on the Nasdaq at 3 p.m. today for Whole Foods was $35.

Whole Foods now has 21 stores in the key trading area of the original A&P and its corporate banners of New York/New Jersey/Connecticut. Eleven stores are in New Jersey; seven in Connecticut including the affluent suburbs of Darien, Greenwich and Westport; one in suburban Westchester County (White Plains); three on Long Island (Jericho and Long Grove along with Manhasset); and six in New York, all in high profile locations—Columbus Circle, Bowery, Chelsea, Tribeca, Union Square and the newest store on the Upper West Side on Columbus Avenue at West 100th Street, which opened last year.

Whole Foods plans to open a store on the Upper East Side in 2013—on East 57th Street between Second and Third Avenues.

[*A COMPLIMENT: One good thing to be said for Food Emporium is they are one chain to get things right in the frozen food section as it is the only store that I have seen using signage to mark the dinners and entrees area as “Meal Solutions,” which is something the frozen food industry has been endeavoring to promote for nearly 15 years. Get it? Your protein, vegetable, fruits, a side dish, maybe even a dessert? The whole frozen food section is a meal solution: Easy to buy; quick to prepare. (But can be a bit pricey, ahem.)*]

Meanwhile, the new Trader Joe’s store opening on the Upper West Side is about midway between the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle and the new Whole Foods store at 808 Columbus (West 100th). It's located in a brand new condo tower at the southwest corner of West 72nd where Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway intersect, and just across the street from the subway station serving the busy 1, 2 and 3 lines. Besides being in a neighborhood with mega-density and legions of affluent, young professionals, this prime corner spot will be a big draw for tourists as it is smack dab between Central Park and Riverside Park/Riverside South Park (the new southern extension of Riverside Park than runs along the Hudson down to 59th Street), as each are just two blocks away, along with the Beacon and other nearby hotels, Lincoln Center, the Museum of Natural History, the New-York Historical Society Museum, and the Beacon Theatre.

This will be Trader’s Joe’s 30th location in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area. It will be the third to crack the Manhattan grocery juggernaut (high rents, demanding customers, no space for logistics like deliveries, etc.) with one having opened a few years ago on East 14th Street near Union Square and another having opened this spring in Chelsea.

Trader Joe’s has been on such an updraft, even Fortune magazine has taken notice, featuring the company on the cover of this month’s issue. Fortune’s cover story is titled, “Inside Trader Joes: Check Out the Hottest—and Most Secretive—Retailer in America.” Check-out, indeed. Ca-ching, a-ching. So check it out ($4.99 at a news stand near you).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cedarlane Rolls Out Three New Products


Cedarlane Natural Foods has introduced three new frozen entrees that are made with all natural ingredients.

Pesto & Four Cheese Baked Stacked Eggplant features baked eggplant smothered in a creamy pesto sauce, layered with ricotta, Monterey jack, Parmesan and feta cheeses drenched in a chunky tomato sauce.

Spinach and Three-Cheese Stuffed Manicotti offers Manicotti pasta shells loaded with spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses covered in a sweet Italian tomato sauce.

Turkey Sausage & Shrimp Jambalaya is a fragrant Basmati rice tossed with spicy turkey sausage, shrimp and a medley of vegetables.

Suggested retail price for the entrees is between $3.99 and $4.49.

Cedarlane products are available in grocery and natural food stores, including major chains such as Whole Foods, Kroger, Safeway and Publix.

TFFG Says: Cedarlane has really hit the spot with these new items. At the onset, it seems an entrée of eggplant could not possibly be filling, but this Pesto & Four Cheese Baked Stacked Eggplant really fills the bill. Not only are these products all-natural, but they are very tasty. Any of the three paired with a side salad makes for a terrific dinner.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fresh Trumps Frozen in Survey


Refrigerated and Frozen Foods Retailer, a trade magazine that covers frozen foods, recently posted a short piece on its website about a survey by that compared fresh ingredients to frozen:

The survey asked the question: When it comes to purchasing groceries, which of the following are you more likely to do this year than last? The largest responding group, 57%, said that they were more likely to purchase fresh ingredients rather than frozen because they are healthier. In addition, 53% said they would purchase fresh ingredients because instead of frozen because they taste better.

Respondents also weighed in that they would purchase in bulk when items go on sale to save money, with 47% saying so; purchase more organic/natural items, because they are healthier, 29%; and purchase more canned items because they last longer without spoiling, 28%.

Providing some small consolation to chill product retailers and manufacturers, 20% of respondents said they would purchase some frozen prepared meals because they are more convenient.

Women with children were slightly more likely than singles to think fresh tastes better than frozen, but they were considerably more likely than singles, 26% to 18%, to favor frozen food’s convenience.

Total sample size for the study was 1,417 respondents with 816 coming from a pop-up survey on the site. A total of 601 came from a consumer panel operates.

TFFG Says: Well, yeah, shoppers are always are going to say that they prefer fresh over frozen. That’s like asking if you think the sun will come up tomorrow. A better survey question would have been: Are you more likely to spend 15 minutes in the supermarket hunting down on all the ingredients for lasagna—several kinds of cheeses, a very specific type of pasta, tomatoes, tomato sauce, etc.—and then go home and spend up to four hours actually using all these ingredients to prepare and then bake the lasagna OR would you reach into the freezer case and pull out a name brand (say, Stouffer’s) family-size lasagna and take that home, heat it up and serve to your family? My guess is that 80% would vote for the latter, unless it’s in an Italian area. Of course, people tend to respond in something of a “wish state” when they respond to these surveys….something along the lines of what they would like to do rather than what they really do.

Fact is, if shoppers REALLY had such a low opinion of frozen foods, they would not be buying them, and ipso facto, there would be NO frozen foods sections in the supermarkets. But there are and many of them are pretty extensive, so the reality is that people are somewhat in denial about the fact that they actually purchase and consume frozen foods.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Hancock Gourmet Lobster Wins Gold Sofi


Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. of Cundys Harbor, Maine, walked away with the Gold Award in the Frozen Savory Category at the Sofi Awards presented earlier tonight at the Fancy Food Show in New York.

Cal Hancock, president of the company, accepted the award for her Port Clyde Lobster Mac & Cheese. The award was presented by Chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barnes, who also presented the keynote address at the awards ceremony, sponsored by the National Association of Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) and held each year at the Fancy Food Show.

Hancock thanked her staff, suppliers, and retailers, while giving special thanks to lobstermen of Maine. This was the fourth Gold Sofi Award for Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co., but its first in the Frozen Savory Category.

Two other frozen food specialty items were big winners tonight. Ciao Bello Gelato Company took top honors in the Dessert or Dessert Topping category for its Key Lime Graham Gelato Squares and G. S. Gelato and Desserts Inc. was the Sofi Gold Award winner in the Diet and Lifestyle Product category for its Blood Orange Sorbetto.

TFFG SAYS: While sampling the delicious Port Clyde Lobster Mac & Cheese at the Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. booth, TFFG had the chance to chat with Cal Hancock and learn more about her entire product line and business. The products are available in gourmet and better food stores throughout New England and she is looking to expand to other market territories through such stores as Wegmans, the popular retail chain in New York and the mid-Atlantic states. And dog lovers take note, Cal even has doggie treats—Lobster Flavored Dog Biscuits!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Four Frozen Foods Named Sofi Finalists


Four frozen food products have been named finalists in the Frozen Savory category of the NASFT Sofi Awards to be presented Monday evening at the Fancy Food Show which begins a three-day run today at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

The four finalists are Pork & Ginger Wontons from Annie Chun’s Inc.; Smoky Roasted Vegetable Cavatappi from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese; Port Clyde Lobster Mac & Cheese from Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co.; and Goat Cheese and Pear Savory Tart from Pearl River Pastry.

Annie Chun’s has also been named a finalist in the USDA-Approved Organic Product category for its Organic Chicken and Vegetable Potstickers.

In the Perishable Food Service category, Pork Goya Potstickers from Day-Lee Foods, a gourmet frozen Asian food company, and Swiss Vanilla Almond Lollibons from Philip R’s Frozen Desserts were named finalists.

Other frozen food products honored as finalists include Blood Orange Sorbetto from G.S. Gelato & Desserts Inc. in the Diet and Lifestyle Product category; Key Lime Graham Gelato Squares from Cia Bello in the Dessert or Dessert Topping Category; and Naked Cripini from Crepini Café in the Baked Goods category.

Each of the four finalists in the 33 award categories are presented with the Silver Sofi Award. One of the four Silver finalists in each category is then awarded a coveted Gold Sofi at Monday’s awards red carpet award ceremony, which features a keynote address by Executive Chef Dan Barber. This year, 2,257 entries were submitted for the Sofi awards, breaking the previous record of 2,191 in 2008.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Full Plate Rolls Out Frozen Meals


The Full Plate, a meal preparation company in the San Francisco Bay area, has branched out with a new line of four frozen meals.

Chef Lisa Alumkal has blended her meal prep expertise from the company she founded in Oakland, Calif., in 2004 to the need of today’s busy consumers for healthy and tasty but easy-to-prepare meals.

“I really think people want to eat well but don’t always have time to figure it out,” says Alumkal. “These new meals provide on-the-go foodies with a healthy alternative to takeout. The meals we’re offering are wholesome but without the excessive fat, cholesterol or sodium. Two of the dishes are gluten free.”

The frozen meals are Risotto Primavera; Mushroom Stroganoff; Roasted Garlic, Zucchini and Penne with Pesto; and Asparagus Risotto. Suggested retail price for each is $5.99.

Alumkal points out that all Full Plate meals are prepared by hand with fresh ingredients, including locally grown produce. The meals can be warmed in the oven or microwave. Each meal is 8 oz. with the exception of Mushroom Stroganoff, which is 10 oz. Asparagus Risotto and Risotto Primavera are wheat free and gluten free. Mushroom Stroganoff, Asparagus Risotto and the Garlic-Zucchini with Penne meals are all appropriate for a sodium-restricted diet.

Full Plate meals are available in northern California at Whole Foods stores in Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, San Francisco (399 Fourth Street), La Honda, San Mateo, Cupertino, Los Altos, Redwood City, Napa, Novato, Sonoma and Roseville; Farmer Joe’s and Piedmont Grocers in Oakland; Piazza’s Find Foods in San Mateo; La Honda Country Market in La Honda; Angels Food Market in Angels Camp; Twain Harte Market in Twain Harte; and Whole Foods in Reno, Nev.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Keep Cool with Sublime Summer Ice Creams


Summer weather is here and America’s ice cream makers have rolled out a number of tasty cold treats to help keep us cool, calm and collected.
Weight Watchers has introduced Strawberry Smoothie and Dark Chocolate Raspberry Bars.

Strawberry Smoothie Bars pair strawberry-flavored frozen yogurt with strawberries. Each bar is 1 point in the Weight Watchers “Points” system. Dark Chocolate Raspberry Bars feature low fat raspberry ice cream and raspberries covered with a dark chocolate coating. The points value per bar is 2. A package of 12 bars sells at a suggested retail price of $4.29 to $5.49.

Friendly’s, the popular ice cream company and restaurant chain in the Northeast, has debuted a new mint-derived flavor in is Sundae Xtreme line just in time for summer. Mint Cookie Collisions is the newest flavor in the “Xtreme” line along with Fudge Nut Brownie.

Friendly’s has also rolled out two new frozen yogurt varieties. Honey Granola is vanilla frozen yogurt with a honey flavored swirl and granola oat clusters. Forbidden Fudge Brownie is a double chocolate frozen yogurt with fudge swirls and fudge brownie chunks.

Each of the four new flavors is sold in a 48-ounce carton with a suggested price of $5.99.

Further west, Smith Dairy Products in Ohio has taken its Ruggles premium chocolate ice cream product and put it in a pint-size carton. Suggested retail price for a pint of Ruggles premium chocolate is $1.99 to $2.49.

Starbucks launched three new ice cream flavors that are “coffee-free.” The flavors trace their roots to several alternative beverages sold in the coffee chain’s retail outlets. Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, Signature Hot Chocolate, and Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino are available in pints in supermarket freezer cases in the $3.89 to $4.39 price range. Vanilla Bean Frappuccino is also available in a single-cup which sells for $1.29 to $1.39.

EDITOR’S PICK! While TFFG is not a regular consumer of ice cream, he enjoys the cool and creamy treat every now and then. However, while perusing the frozen food section of his regular grocery store not too long ago he was struck with an “I could really go for some ice cream” moment. His normal pick would have been a package of a “good for you”-type product like Weight Watchers, but TFFG didn’t really want to make the long term commitment to a 12-pack of anything or even a four-pack. But then, there it was—a single serve cup of New! The Skinny Cow Dulce de Leche. TFFG was both pleased and satisfied with the taste and texture of this one-cup flavor. He paid about $1.49 if memory serves him correctly, and found it worth every penny.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Amy’s Hears the Call for Low Sodium


Ever hear a faint, plaintive whimper coming from the frozen food aisle when shopping at your local supermarket? That soulful sound is the cry for more low-sodium options among the wide array of frozen foods and brands.

Fortunately, the innovators at Amy’s Kitchen have heard the call and answered with two new low-sodium, organic products: Light in Sodium Burrito and Light in Sodium California Veggie Burger.

The Light in Sodium Bean & Cheese Burrito and the Light in Sodium Bean & Rice Burrito feature an organic flour tortilla wrapped around organic pinto beans, rice and vegetables in a mild Mexican sauce. The Bean & Rice Burrito is a non-dairy option. Suggested retail price for each 6 oz. burrito is $2.69.

The Light in Sodium California Veggie Burger is a blend of organic grains, mushrooms, vegetables and walnuts, and contains only half the sodium of Amy’s regular California Burger.

A package of four veggie burgers (about 2.5 oz. each) retails for a suggested price of $5.79.

TFFG Says: The incidence of high sodium levels in processed foods has long been a concern of nutritionists and wellness advocates, so it’s good to see Amy’s rolling out these low sodium options. The Frozen Food Guy is a regular buyer of veggie burgers, and he has been concerned that longstanding brands have suffered from “nutrition level” creep the last few years. These brands have shifted their veggie burger products from just 1 gram of fat per serving up to 2.5, 3 and sometimes even 4 grams of fat while the fiber levels have been reduced. Check your labels closely as the “all vegan” and “California” veggie burgers can sometimes have twice the fat of a “garden veggie” or vice-versa based on whichever manufacturer makes that particular brand. Don’t be fooled by the package front, not all “veggie” products are the same. Contrast and compare the nutrition levels listed on the back of the package for fat grams, fiber grams, calories and sodium content levels.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cookie-licious! Friendly’s Oreo Ice Cream Cake


Summer is just around the corner and warm weather means shoppers will be flocking to their grocers’ freezer cases for cool and delectable ice cream treats.

Friendly’s, the ice cream and restaurant company known throughout the eastern U.S for its ice cream cakes, has teamed up with Kraft, the company that markets the successful Nabisco line of cookies and snacks, to create the Oreo Ice Cream Cake.
This combined confection of ice cream and the popular Oreo cookie features two layers of Friendly’s premium vanilla ice cream with chunks of Oreo cookies, separated by a crunchy Oreo cookie center layer. The ice cream cake itself is topped off with vanilla flavored icing, more Oreo cookie chunks and a double drizzle of fudge.

Friendly’s says the cakes are being introduced just in time for graduation and Father’s Day gatherings. Suggested retail price for the 60 oz. ice cream cake is $19.99.

Friendly’s is clearly in the “party mode” as it has also rolled out ice cream cupcakes, made with a chocolate cake topped with Friendly’s vanilla ice cream, whipped icing and decorations. The cupcakes come in a clear clamshell container with six cupcakes to a package. Suggested retail price for the package of six is $6.99.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kraft + Cadbury = Chocolate-Covered Pizza?


Chocolate covered pizza? Well, that would seem to be the case with the news that Kraft, the maker of the popular DiGiorno frozen pizzas, has acquired Cadbury, the well-known UK-based chocolate company. Kraft already owns a whole slew of meat and cheese products under its various Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands, not to mention all the Nabisco cracker and cookie brands like Oreo.

My guess is that some bright young thing in marketing (they tend to call them “brand managers”) at Kraft Corporate HQ will come up with the brilliant idea of slopping some cheap form of chocolate on your everyday frozen pizza and then get all kinds of kudos from his or her higher ups for “thinking out of the box” and creating a “win-win” situation. They would probably call it DiChoco, or perhaps give a little more panache and brand it “DiChioco.”

But, not to worry food shoppers! Kraft has sold off its entire pizza operation to fund this purchase of England’s beloved chocolate company, so the threat of this pizza-chocolate abomination is stanched. Kraft has sold the frozen pizza business to Nestle, another global food giant, which makes Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s frozen dinners and entrees.

The $3.7 billion deal includes the DiGiorno, Tombstone and Jack’s pizza brands, the California Pizza Kitchen trademark license, manufacturing facilities and other assets. Kraft says it will transfer 3,400 employees to Nestle. Last year the Kraft pizza business generated an estimated $1.6 billion. Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld says proceeds from the pizza business sale was applied to the Cadbury acquisition, which was reported to have cost Kraft $19.6 billion.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spa Cuisine Packs a Punch with More Fiber


More fiber and great taste? That’s a combination that can’t be beat, and it’s the impetus behind the three new Spa Cuisine flavors from Lean Cuisine. Plus, five existing Spa Cuisine flavors have also been reformulated with more fiber.

Each new and reformulated Spa Cuisine item features 5 grams of fiber with the exception of Apple Cranberry Chicken, which offers 6. “Made with high quality ingredients like natural sea salt and with no preservatives or artificial flavors, each entrée delivers on great taste and nutrition,” says Kristin Gibbs, director of marketing, Lean Cuisine.

Suggested retail price for each item is $3.59. Package sizes range from 8.25 oz. to 9.75 oz.

The new Spa Cuisine items are:

Apple Cranberry Chicken—a combination of grilled chicken in an apple reduction with cranberries, French cut green beans and whole wheat pilaf.

Roasted Honey Chicken—a combination of roasted chicken in a sweet honey sauce with snap peas, yellow beans and whole wheat pilaf.

Thai-Style Noodles with Chicken—roasted chicken, whole wheat noodles, green beans and carrots in a creamy chili peanut sauce.

The new reformulated varieties are:

Chicken Pecan—roasted chicken in a maple bourbon sauce with pecans, currants, veggies and whole wheat orzo; Lemongrass Chicken—roasted chicken in a lemongrass-ginger sauce with baby corn, broccoli and whole wheat vermicelli; Rosemary Chicken—roasted chicken in a lemon-rosemary sauce with carrots, spinach and whole wheat; Lemon Chicken—lightly breaded chicken breasts in a lemon glaze with broccoli, carrots and whole wheat orzo; and Ginger Garlic Stir Fry with Chicken—features white meat chicken with snap peas, whole wheat pasta and ginger garlic sauce.

The Spa Cuisine line also features these eight flavors (also with 5 to 6 grams of fiber in each): Butternut Squash Ravioli, Chicken in Peanut Sauce, Chicken in Mediterranean, Grilled Chicken Primavera, Hunan Stir Fry with Beef, Salmon with Basil, Sesame Stir Fry with Chicken, and Szechuan-Style Stir Fry with Shrimp.

Go to for more information about Spa Cuisine and for access to Lean Cuisine wellness resources.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Easy Home Meals Now on Facebook


March is National Frozen Foods Month and to help shoppers get the best and brightest of frozen foods into their meal planning, the National Frozen and Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) has created the Easy Home Meals Fan page on Facebook.

NFRA says the social media presence allows it to spread the message about the benefits of frozen and refrigerated foods with a large and diverse consumer market. has been the association’s consumer-directed website and now it has extended the reach of the site through the Facebook page.

“The Easy Home Meals Fan page offers its followers a unique selection of perks and insights,” says Julie Henderson, NFRA vice president of communications. “Fans will receive notice on new frozen and refrigerated products, sweepstakes and coupon giveaways. Recipes, tips and meal prep videos featuring frozen and refrigerated foods will also be updated and shared monthly.”

“NFRA’s new fan page supports the industry by educating consumers and keeping them informed of upcoming promotions like March Frozen Food Month,” says Henderson, adding that The Easy Home Meals page also help NFRA’s manufacturer sponsors gain further exposure for their new products among desired consumers and increase brand awareness.

“Please help us build our fan base and spread the word about the value of frozen and refrigerated foods,” says Henderson. “Visit us on Facebook at and become a Fan today.”

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Smart Shopping with Artisan Creations


Winter got you down? Tired of that same-old, same-old lunch and dinner fare? Has your New Year’s resolution gone south already?

Fear not. The folks who make Weight Watchers Smart Ones have introduced Artisan Creations Grilled Flatbreads and Stone-Fired Pizzas to liven up those dreary mealtimes.

Officials at H.J. Heinz Co. in Pittsburgh--longtime makers of Smart Ones frozen food items--say the Artisan Creations Grilled Flatbreads are “a delicious line of authentic, flavorful and ‘crave-able’ better-for-you lunch time sandwiches.”

The flatbreads feature real grill marks and can be prepared in the microwave in just a few minutes. Each flatbread a Weight Watchers Points value of 6, 6-8 grams of fat, and 310 calories or less. Suggested retail price is $3.29.

The four flavors of Grilled Flatbreads are:

* Chicken Marinara: grilled white meat chicken, fire-roasted bell peppers, onions and reduced fat mozzarella cheese topped with marinara sauce on a flatbread.

* Savory Steak and Ranch: flatbread of seasoned steak, fire-roasted green bell peppers, onions, and reduced fat mozzarella cheese with a creamy ranch sauce on a flatbread.

* Southwestern Style Chicken Fiesta: grilled white meat chicken, a blend of reduced fat cheeses and fire-roasted vegetables complemented by a roasted red bell pepper sauce.

* Chicken Bruschetta: grilled white meat chicken, tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers and reduced fat mozzarella cheese with a creamy roasted garlic sauce on a flatbread.

Heinz says Artisan Creations Stone-Fired Pizzas offer the “same taste you get at the local pizzeria with only a fraction of the calories.” The individual-size pizzas are made with extra virgin olive oil and cooked on a granite stone for a light, oven-baked flavor and crunch right out of the microwave.” Each of the three pizza flavors has a Weight Watchers Points value of 7 or 8, and “are better for you than regular pizzeria slices,” says Heinz.

The three flavors of Stone-Fired Pizzas are:

* Pepperoni: tangy tomato sauce topped with reduced fat mozzarella cheese on a stone-fired crust.

* Four Cheese: a blend of reduced fat mozzarella, Asiago, Parmesan, and Romano cheeses covered in a zesty tomato sauce.

* Fajita Chicken: grilled white meat fajita chicken, fire roasted vegetables and poblanos topped with cheese and sauce for a nice kick.

(Ed. note: a poblano is a heart-shaped, green chile pepper from Puebla, Mexico, and has a mild taste.)

Suggested retail price for each pizza slice is $2.22.

For more information about these and other Smart Ones products made by Heinz, visit

Friday, January 29, 2010

Finagle a Bagel Launches Retail Line


A beloved bagel in Boston available in only a dozen Finagle a Bagel shops has made its way to the freezer cases in grocery stores up and down the East Coast.

SJB Bagel Makers, Boston, the operators of Finagle a Bagel shops, has introduced a 4-ounce, frozen Finagle a Bagel in Giant and Stop & Shop supermarkets.

The frozen bagel rollout is an extension of the fresh bagel business conducted by SJB Bagel Makers in various supermarket chains' in-store bakeries. The frozen product under the Finagle a Bagel brand is available in plain, egg, cinnamon raisin, onion, and 100% whole wheat flavors.

"The freezer sections of grocery stores don't always carry the same quality of bagel that consumers find in bakeries," says Laura Trust, president, SJB Bagel Makers. "We wanted to provide a true hand-boiled and baked bagel to our guests who were not able to get to our retail stores.

"We make every Finagle a Bagel bagel by hand, using the same recipes, dough and methods as the bagels we make in our Boston area bakeries," says Trust.

Finagle a Bagel has also introduced a new foodservice product, Bailey's All Natural Bagels, which are available in cafeterias in schools, nursing homes and hospitals in New York and New England served by Agar and Perkins, Renzi Brothers, and HPC foodservice distributors.

For more information, go to