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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jolly Llama Squeezups Add New Flavors


Jolly Llama Sorbet Squeezups are now available in two new flavors—Peach and Coconut Banana. The new flavors join the existing lineup of Blueberry, Raspberry, Strawberry and Mango.

Jolly Llama’s Sorbet Squeezups are packaged in easy-to-use individual “squeeze up” paper containers. They are made from whole fruit and then pureed and processed into a whole fruit sorbet. Squeezups are sold four to a package with a suggested retail price of $4.99 per package.

Officials with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Jolly Llama say Squeezups are “a good source of fiber—10% recommended daily intake (RDI) or greater—and contain 50% RDI of vitamins A and C. They’re all dairy-free, fat-free, gluten-free and a great, portion-controlled 70 or 80 calories, except Banana Coconut which has 100 calories and 3 grams of fat.”

Squeezups are available at natural grocery stores nationwide; Whole Foods in the West, North Atlantic and Southern regions; and online at

The editors of O, The Oprah Magazine gave Squeezups a try and wrote, “replacing fruit puree concentrates with real whole fruit is what makes these sorbet push-ups taste like actual fresh fruit—only so much cooler.”

Jolly Llama founder Scott Jacobson parlayed his training and experience as a chef to fill a void he saw for restaurant-quality frozen treats. With friend Rich Ellefson, an ice cream industry veteran, he set up a test lab in a corner of his parent’s sugar cone manufacturing company. Three months later, Squeezups were born.

Jacobson takes the name of the company from his childhood in Wisconsin where he grew up around llama farms. He was always amused by their funny appearance, but found something peaceful about the way they quietly munched their vegetables and softly brushed against each other. One day when the Dalai Lama was visiting California, Jacobson says the image of a happy, smiling llama popped into his head and became the name of his new company.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Weight Watchers Helps Beat the Heat


Has the heat wave got you down? Creating havoc with your pledge to eat healthy and exercise in the summer months?

Fear not, Weight Watchers has rolled out four new products to help beat the summer heat. New this “ice cream season” are Weight Watchers Dessert Bars in three flavors; Weight Watchers Strawberry Fruit Bar; Weight Watchers Snack Size Chocolate Fudge Bar; and Weight Watchers Snack Size Variety Pack Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Weight Watchers and Wells’ Dairy, the Iowa-based ice cream company that makes the products for the popular weight management program, say the Dessert Bars are “a highly indulgent ice cream bar” available in three “decadent” flavors. The flavors are Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Bar, Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake Bar, and Dark Chocolate Dulcé de Leché Bar.

Each bar is 3 “points plus” in the Weight Watchers PointsPlus system and they retail from a suggested $4.69 to $5.49 for a box of six bars.

Strawberry Fruit Bar is made with real fruit and has vitamin C, making it a healthier snack option for adults and kids. It has 15% fewer calories and 30% less sugar than other national leading brands of fruit bars. Suggested retail price is $4.69 to $5.49. Each fruit bar has a value of 2 on the PointsPlus system.

Snack Size Chocolate Fudge Bar is just that—a “delightful chocolate-y snack-sized treat” that Weight Watchers and Wells’ point out is “just a dream with only 45 calories per bar and less than 1 gram of fat.” PointsPlus value is 1 per bar and the suggested price for a box of 12 is $4.69 to $5.49.

Snack Size Variety Pack Ice Cream Sandwiches feature a pack of four sandwiches with two flavors, Vanilla Bean and Dutch Chocolate. Each sandwich has a PointsPlus value of 2. Each box of four sandwiches retails for a suggested $4.69 to $5.49.

TFFG SAYS: The Frozen Food Guy has gone right to the source (almost) as he has relocated to central Iowa this spring, which is not all that far away from northwest Iowa, where the Weight Watchers ice cream goodies are made at the HQ and main plant of Wells’ Dairy in Le Mars. TFFT is greatly enjoying his return to his hometown of Grand Junction, Iowa, and is enjoying the magnificently verdant green Iowa landscape this summer. He is also enjoying the open spaces, deep horizon and incredible views (7 miles from his back yard on the edge of town and up to 10 miles or more in some places just a few blocks away) and all the wonderful wildlife of his backyard (a quarter size city block) which goes from small town lawn-to-rural Iowa, and features an array of squirrels, rabbits, a variety of birds, and last week a big ‘ole possum perched on an old piece of wood in the neighbor’s back yard. (Stay over there, Mr. Possum!) Life is “grand” in the country! Who knew corn and soybean fields could look so beautiful!

Check out TFFG’s other online endeavor Eye on Grand Junction which covers what’s happening at “the junction,”--no! not Petticoat Junction, but GRAND JUNCTION. Go to: Eye on Grand Junction, URL is

Drop him a line if you get a free moment at or

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Saffron Road Introduces Halal Indian Meals


A new “entry” in the entrees (and dinners) section of the freezer case is Saffron Road with four all-natural Halal certified Indian meals.

The company says Halal “is a tradition that has nourished billions of people over the last 1,400 years. Halal promotes the sacred practices of respect for the land, fair treatment for farmers, humane treatment of livestock and clean, wholesome food to eat.”

Saffron Road says its Halal Indian meals feature antibiotic-free lamb and chicken in authentic recipes. Ingredients in the four flavors are all-natural. The meat is pasture-raised and 100% vegetarian fed.

The flavors are Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice, Lamb Saag with Basmati Rice, Chicken Biryani, and Lamb Vindaloo with Basmati Rice.

Jack Acree, who was previously in charge of marketing for Alexia Foods and its upscale frozen potatoes line, heads up marketing efforts for Saffron Road, which is based on Connecticut. For more information, go to

TFFG Says: Lamb is one of the most unheralded proteins but certainly as flavorful as the big three of “beef, pork and poultry.” These recipes do a wonderful job of blending the flavors of lamb and chicken with just the right touch of spices to remain authentic to Halal cuisine but not too overpowering to the American palate.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Blue Bunny Partners With Chef Goldman


Summer is just around the corner and Blue Bunny Ice Cream is ready with a variety of new products and flavors for ice cream season. Among the new products are Naturally Bars and Sandwiches, Chef Duff Goldman ice cream flavors, and Sweet Freedom snack products.

Blue Bunny’s Naturally Bars and Sandwiches are made of 100% natural ingredients. The bars are available in Vanilla Bean and Strawberry flavors and the sandwiches are available in Vanilla Bean and Chocolate. Each package of six bars or sandwiches sells for a suggested retail price of $3.69.
Blue Bunny has also added two new All Natural Frozen Yogurt flavors—Chocolate Vanilla Swirl and Vanilla Bean. Suggested retail price for each is $4.99.

Celebrity Chef Duff Goldman has partnered with Blue Bunny to create four ice cream-and-cake combinations. “The new flavors channel creativity into ice cream like never before,” says Goldman. “Much like my cakes, every last detail has been carefully crafted to create four ice cream flavor masterpieces.”

The four flavors are Red Carpet Velvet Cake—red velvet cake flavored ice cream with cream cheese frosting flavored ice cream and red velvet cake pieces; Chocolate Lovers Triple Chocolate Cake—chocolate ice cream with fudgy chocolate cake pieces; I Do! I Do! Wedding Cake—sweet buttercream frosting ice cream and white cake pieces wrapped in ribbons of raspberry sauce; and Strawberries Are Forever Shortcake—strawberry ice cream and strawberries mixed with pound cake pieces and whipped cream frosting.

SRP for each carton of Chef Goldman Ice Cream is $4.99.

New Personals single-serve ice cream flavors are Chocolate & Salted Caramel, Cocoa Pistachio, and Birthday Party. Each 5.5-ounce single-serve sells for 99 cents.

Blue Bunny has also added three new flavors to its Champs! Mini Swirls line—Birthday Party, Vanilla, and Chocolate—and a new Ice Cream Sandwich Mini Variety Pack with 16 mini sandwiches per carton—eight vanilla minis and eight chocolate minis. A box of 10 Champs! Mini Swirls cones sells for $4.99 and box of 16 mini ice cream sandwiches is $4.79.

New in the Sweet Freedom snack size line are Vanilla and a Variety Pack (Vanilla and Chocolate). SRP for each is $3.69

Blue Bunny has not overlook its premium ice cream customers, introducing two new flavors: Sweet & Salty Pretzel—vanilla ice cream with chocolate-coated pretzels and a salty caramel ribbon; and Dulce de Leche—caramel ice cream with a buttery caramel ribbon. Premium flavors sell for $4.99.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Food Producers' Prices Highest Since 1974


February 2011 marked the largest one-month increase in 37 years for wholesale food prices, climbing by 3.9%.

An analysis of the latest Producer Price Index Report by The Food Institute, Upper Saddle River, N.J., indicates that wholesale prices have not experienced an increase this great in many years. This number was only exceeded in November 1974 when spiraling oil prices resulted in sharp food price increases amounting to 4.2%.

"Food retailers in the U.S. have been very adept at holding price increases at a minimum for the past 18 months but the February surge will make that task more difficult in future months," says Brain Todd, President and CEO of the non-profit trade association that has been providing information about the food industry since 1928.

This latest increase in the Producer Price Index for finished consumer foods is driven by a 49% jump in fresh vegetable prices due to freezes and other crop issues in many farming areas. Price increases of 4% or more during the month for beef and pork also added to the surge in the overall index.

Of the 17 categories the Food Institute tracks on a regular basis, 13 posted increases during February, led by fresh vegetables, and followed by a nearly 10% jump in shortening and cooking oil, a 7.6% jump in egg prices, a 4.1% gain in dairy prices and a 3.2% jump in coffee prices.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Vegetarian ‘Balancing’ Act


Balanced Vegetarian is a new line of vegetarian Indian entrees from Tandoor Chef now available in supermarket freezer cases.

The vegetarian Indian meals were created “to provide vegetarian consumers with smarter and healthier at-home dining options,” say officials with Tandoor Chef, a brand manufactured and marketed by Deep Foods, Union, N.J.

Palak Paneer is one of five varieties in the
Tandoor Chef Balanced Vegetarian line.
 Balanced Vegetarian offers complete Indian meals with lower sodium, higher protein and fiber, and no trans fats, says the company. All five of the Balanced Vegetarian Meals are made with olive oil and select dishes are also vegan and gluten-free. Each item sells for $3.99.

The five Balanced Vegetarian meals are: Kofta Curry with Channa Masala & Spinach Basmati Pilaf, Mutter Paneer with Dal Palak & Cumin-Infused Basmati Rice, Palak Paneer with Dal Makhani & Tumeric-Infused Basmati Rice, Paneer Tikka Musala with Rajma Dal & Onion Basmati Rice, and Vegetable Korma with Dal Rajasthani & Cumin-Infused Basmati Rice.
Each dish offers multiple nutrients that are particularly beneficial for those following a meatless diet.
“Vegetarian consumers make up a large percentage of both the Indian and American population, yet truly healthy vegetarian dining options remain limited—especially when it comes to eating at home,” says Mike Ryan, vice president of sales and marketing, Tandoor Chef.

“That’s why we we’ve introduced Balanced Vegeterian, a better-for-you initiative and an industry first,” says Ryan. “We’re proud to share this with the vegetarian community as a way of letting them know that we have their best health and interests at heart.”

TFFG SAYS: Tandoor Chef has indeed struck a balance here, as these Indian entrees are flavorful—encapsulating the spices of Indian that identify a dish as “Indian”—but not overly spicy or pungent, which could easily put off the less “spice aware” American consumer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TFFG Exclusive: Editor’s Picks!


Every now and then The Frozen Food Guy happens across a frozen food product that merits extra-special accolades. Much of the information written and posted here on TFFG by TFFG comes from press releases directly from the companies (my “A” list of sources) and information gleaned indirectly from various websites, news distribution agencies, and print magazines.

So, it seems appropriate that when I stumble across a product that really “punches all my buttons,” it should be duly noted.

I’ve recently discovered two such products—a baked ziti from Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt and an eggplant veggie burger from Dominex.

The Frozen Food Guy in action:
    Getting his ziti fix at Trader Joe's
Let’s start with Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt. I am a newcomer to the Trader’s Joe’s shopping experience. There is much to like in the new store that opened this fall in my neighborhood (Upper West Side of Manhattan). The prices are good, aisles are spacious, and the staff incredibly friendly based on New York standards. I especially like the way products are merchandised and the upbeat, catchy signage.

I found the baked ziti quite by accident as I had wandered in the store in the middle of the afternoon as more of a “site inspection” than a shopping trip on opening day, but I was soon swept up in the vibe this new store presented. It seems that Trader Joe’s key demographic is on the young-ish side (single 20-somethings) and the store reflects that, although on this particular visit there was a good turnout of seniors and retirees. Looking back, I think most of them came out of curiosity, as I have not seen many since.

Anyway, I was particularly drawn to the open freezer cases, known in industry parlance as “coffins.” I was also intrigued by the hand-written signage throughout the store. TJ’s really pulls this off, as hand-written could come off looking cutesy or worse, cheap, but these signs were both fun and informative. Most stores where I shop don’t offer much in the way of signage at all, yet alone legible pricing on or near the products, so this was a plus.

Also intriguing was TJ’s cross-merchandising. Just above these open freezer cases were shelves, built at about eye level, stocked with shelf-stable products—interesting cookies and crackers. Traditional grocers talk a lot about cross-merchandsing, but they just never do it. Especially in the frozen foods section. I ended up buying the baked ziti mostly on price—$1.99. But I was so impressed by the above-the-case merchandising (and the related signage), I ended up making an impulse buy of a package of cookies.

Comparatively, the Dominex Eggplant Burgers are sold in the freezer cases of the extensive natural and organic section (second floor) of my primary grocery store—Fairway at 74th and Broadway. This is a natural/organic frozen foods department that features a wide array of Amy’s products and specialty ice creams and sorbets, along with a good selection of frozen organic vegetables and several brands of meat alternative products. It’s probably the largest such section in Manhattan other than the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle. Shopping at Fairway, however, is an extension of life on the streets of the Upper West Side—busy, bustling and crowded. In contrast to the new Trader Joe’s (just two blocks away), Fairway does not offer spacious aisles, nor is there an upbeat vibe. Mostly it’s a lot of shoppers all jockeying and maneuvering through very crowded aisles and some very aggressive employees stocking shelves and pushing carts laded with merchandise up and down these same aisles (and they have some sort of pre-determined right of way.) But, Fairway has the magic formula— lots of very good food products at very good prices.

Just to clarify, the new Trader Joe’s opened in the fall. And it’s now February, and I have made several trips into the store specifically to buy that Reduced Guilt Baked Ziti. That’s the kind of repeat purchase food marketers dream about. I really like the Eggplant Burgers but they are primarily purchased as part of a typical shopping trip and are included on my list. I rarely make impulse purchases when food shopping, at least not in these economic times.

So much for how I got to the products the first time. Let’s take a look at their taste and presentation—the attributes that spurred additional purchases—and overall value:

TRADER JOE’S REDUCED GUILT BAKED ZITI: The product is actually billed as “Baked Ziti with Mozzarella and Grana Cheese.” I am not familiar with Grana cheese but it must be a secret ingredient or something, because this product really works. First off, it tastes good. But more than that, it’s satisfying, as in filling, which is just as important as tasting good. And there are no sleight of hand tricks where the single container is actually two serving sizes (a major pet peeve of The Frozen Food Guy). This one serving of baked ziti makes you feel like you’ve really eaten something; unlike far too many “diet” food presentations that are really appetizer-sized but passed off as an “entrée.” “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me…” and all that. Or as I like to think of it, ill-conceived product development idea that consumers will wise up to much faster than the time spent by food corporation executives trotting out that new (yet slightly dishonest) presentation—such as the duplicitous and devious “one serving tray presented as 2 servings” to make the nutritional information of each serving more palatable. Who heats just half of a single-size serving tray?

Granted, the baked ziti’s sodium level is high (590 mg or 25% of the recommended daily value) but I don’t ingest a lot of salt overall, so the high sodium is balanced against reasonable calories (320) and a manageable fat content (7 grams) and a good amount of fiber (3 grams). In the old Weight Watchers “Points” system, this product used to be 6 points but since they retooled the program a few months ago and rebranded “Points” as “Points Plus” the revised points assessment is 9 points. Not so bad when considering WW’s daily points targets and weekly extra points “allowance” were also increased. (Go to for more on the upgraded WW program.)

A product that fares well on the nutritional score card; tastes good; and is actually satisfying—well, that’s clearly a win-win-win. This product works especially well when paired with a nice green salad and a glass of red wine. A perfect—and easy to prepare—winter-time evening meal.

Oh, and I almost forget—all this for $1.99. You got it: ka-ching, ka-ching and ka-ching again. Yes, that’s the sound of repeat purchases by Mr. TFFG himself.

DOMINEX EGGLPLANT BURGER: Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “eggplant burgers…yuk.” But au contrare, mon frère! These “meat sub(stitute)” patties are flavorful, filling, and they even have the texture and aroma when cooked just like real meat. I don’t know how the folks at Dominex pulled it all off, but one key factor is the moistness to the product. When they come out of the microwave there is, well, juice or something—like you get when cooking real meat/protein (beef, pork, chicken, fish, etc.) in a pan or baking dish—on the dish or plate used for heating them.

Eggplant Burgers retail for $3.99, which seems like a lot when you compare them with the Baked Ziti at TJ’s above for half that, but the ziti is just one and done—a single serving. The eggplant burgers offer four patties to a package—so that’s just a buck per burger. Taste, convenience, value—yes, we have another ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching triple winner. Hint: look in the natural foods section freezer of your food store if you don’t find them in the mix with the regular frozen foods (pizza, ice cream, waffles, etc.).

And Points-wise, in case you’re counting? Each Eggplant Burger was 1 point and now “weighs” in at 2 points.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Top Product Honors to Buitoni, Lean Cuisine


Buitoni Riserva Frozen Complete Meals for Two and Lean Cuisine Market Creations were among 22 products across several CPG categories honored at the Product of the Year USA awards ceremony this week in New York.

Buitoni Riserva took top honors in Specialty Foods and Lean Cuisine Market Creations was the winner in Frozen Foods.

Both of the winning brands are from Nestle USA, Solon, Ohio.

Jimmy Dean, a frozen breakfast food brand from Sara Lee, was honored in the Breakfast category for its new refrigerated rollout, Jimmy Dean Hearty Sausage Crumbles.

Other products honored in key food and beverage categories were: Cooking Spices—Recipe Inspirations, McCormick and Company Inc.; Cooking—Olivari Mediterranean Olive Oil, Sovena USA; Candy and Snacks—M&M’s Pretzel Chocolate Candies, Mars Chocolate North America; and Beverage—Lipton Brisk, Pepsi-Lipton Partnership.

Product of the Year awards were also presented in pet food, pet health, air care, male grooming, baby care, personal hygiene, insecticide, cosmetics, at-home beauty treatment, hair care, toothpaste, mouthwash, feminine products, personal care, and hair styling categories.

The winners represented a cross-section of major CPG companies, including Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithCline, Kimberly-Clark, and Reckitt Benckiser.

All of the winning product development teams and their public relations and advertising partners were honored at special awards reception and dinner at the Edison Ballroom in New York on Tuesday night.

Chicago Improv comedians Kate James and Greg Mills served as hosts for the awards dinner, along with special presentations from Phil Lempert, the “Supermarket Guru,” and Herb Sorenson, scientific advisor for global retail and shopper practices with TNS.

“Consumers are smarter than ever and watching what they spend more intelligently,” says Lempert. “Even though mobile devices and social networks offer just about every product review possible, it is still the ‘human’ social network that is the most powerful.”

Sorenson noted that “even though modern-day consumers are tasked with deciding which products to use on a regular basis, shoppers are willing to trust their peers when it comes to trying new products that provide greater value. The Product of the Year seal is a giant recommendation to consumers, by consumers.”

TNS worked with the Product of the Year (POY) organization to survey 60,000 shoppers nationwide to determine the POY winners. Results of the surveys indicate that 80% of consumers are willing to try new products while 68% of shoppers say a consumer-voted award means more for a new product than an expert’s opinion. Recommendations from friends or family positively impacts purchase interest of close to half the population.

Hosted in 28 countries, POY is the world’s largest consumer-voted program that recognizes CPG innovation. This is the third year POY has presented awards in the United States.

TFFG SAYS: This is the second year TFFG has attended the POY awards dinner. Last year there were no frozen food winners, but there was so much valuable information shared about food, beverage and CPG products sold at retail—TFFG’s bailiwick—that it made for time well spent. So having two products honored this year made the event even more special. The comedy duo was very good and it is always great to be in the presence of Phil Lempert, who is by far the most high profile person in the CPG grocery/retail universe. Guru of “supermarketing,” indeed!

TFFG was fortunate to be assigned to the same table as the fine folks from Nestle USA and to be part of their special night as the teams from Buitoni and Lean Cuisine were honored for their exemplary efforts in product development and marketing. Nestle USA is also the maker of Stouffer’s, Jenny Craig and Hot Pockets frozen foods and last year acquired the pizza brands from Kraft—DiGiorno, Tombstone, Jack’s, and California Pizza Kitchen (licensed from the restaurant company of that name).

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lean Cuisine Gets Snackin’


Lean Cuisine, which made its mark in the “better for you” frozen meals segment, has branched out to frozen snacks with its new Lean Cuisine Spring Rolls. Nestle, which makes and markets the Lean Cuisine products, has even created a new tag line for the rollout—“keep snacking delicious.”

Nestle says that a recent survey shows that 74% of women snack in between lunch and dinner, but often they make bad choices which, in turn, lead to bad feelings. But these new Spring Rolls are each less than 200 calories per serving, so they offer a more healthful snack option

“We all have cravings at snack time, but there are so many boring choices out there,” says Christine Dahm, vice president of marketing, Lean Cuisine. “Snacking should be enjoyable and something we look forward to. And that’s why we’re introducing new Lean Cuisine Spring Rolls. They’re crispy, crunchy and they taste great—people will never believe snacking can be this delicious without the guilt.”

Lean Cuisine Spring Rolls sell for a suggested retail price of $3.59 and are available in three flavors: Garlic Chicken—white meat chicken, garlic, spinach, caramelized onions and Parmesan cheese; Thai-Style Chicken—white meat chicken, shredded cabbage, julienne yellow carrots and spicy red coconut curry; and Fajita-Style Chicken—white meat chipotle, corn, black beans, bell peppers and onions.

TFFG SAYS: This is a good fusion of two key trends: 1. The move toward healthier choices, in this case a product with a healthy protein (chicken) flavored with vegetables; and 2. The growing popularity of Asian foods, noted by the continued growth of restaurants featuring Asian cuisine and the popularity of such foods first made popular in Asian cultures, like sushi and soy products.

Lean Cuisine is also making some key information available on its website. In addition to a “Where To Buy” feature which helps shoppers locate Spring Rolls and other Lean Cuisine products in the nearest supermarket, the site offers wellness resources, including meal planning, lifestyle tips and advice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Amy’s Kitchen 'Lightens Up'


Amy’s Kitchen has introduced a new line of “Light and Lean Meals.” Each of the four meals has fewer than 300 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 590 mg of sodium. Each meal is 8 ounces and sells for a suggested price of $4.89.

Amy’s says the Light and Lean Meals were created in response to consumer requests for meals that would fit their diet plans. Light and Lean Meals are organic, vegetarian, and made without use of trans fats or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The four Light and Lean Meals flavors are:

Light and Lean Spinach Lasagna has
just 250 calories and 5 grams of fat.
 Spinach Lasagna—Lasagna layered with ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, and organic spinach, then covered with Amy’s special tomato pasta sauce. Nutritional values are 250 calories, 5 g fat and 540 mg sodium.

Pasta & Veggies—Rotina pasta tossed in a light tomato sauce and tender shallots, organic asparagus, and broccoli florets. Nutritional values are 210 calories, 5 g fat and 470 mg sodium.

Soft Taco Fiesta—Two soft corn tortillas layered with brown rice, shredded vegetables, sweet corn, black beans and cheese, flavored with a blend of tomatillo and ranchero sauces. Nutritional values are 220 calories, 4.5 g fat, 560 mg sodium, and gluten-free.

Black Bean & Cheese Enchilada has
just 240 calories and is gluten-free.

Black Bean & Cheese Enchilada—A mixture of organic black beans, tofu, brown rice, vegetables and cheese tucked into a tortilla covered with tomatillo and ranchero sauces. Organic brown rice with carrots and sweet corn complete the meal. Nutritional values are 240 calories, 4.5 g fat, 480 mg sodium, and gluten-free.

TFFG SAYS: Credit to Amy’s Kitchen for tackling that old bugaboo of frozen foods—too much sodium. Amy’s has also kept the calorie and fat levels in check with these products without compromising taste and texture. A frozen meal for almost $5 is a bit high, but reasonable nutritional values and the bonus of being gluten-free make these products a solid value.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

One Up, One Down in Organic Baby Foods


The emerging organic frozen baby food market lost one player and gained another in 2010. Yummy Spoonfuls, launched a few years ago in Marietta, Ga., by Agatha Achindu, has expanded from the South to several key markets in the Northeast. Sadly, Petite Palate, an early player in the category, has gone out of business.

Yummy Spoonfuls is now available in the New York area in Dean & Deluca food stores and Food Emporium supermarkets and through Haddon House, a New Jersey food distributor. Yummy Spoonfuls also exhibited for the first time at the Natural Products Expo East in Boston in October.

Butternut Squash is one of the
Stage 1 "Creamy Yummy"
products from Yummy Spoonfulls.

Achindu says 2010 was “an incredible year for Yummy Spoonfuls. Going to Boston in October for Expo East took us to a whole new level. The product is really catching on in the Northeast, and that’s a huge market for us. My hope is that Yummy Spoonfuls can support parents in giving children the best start in life.”

Achindu started the company in 2006 when she was expecting her first child. She began to explore healthy baby food options and found that baby foods labeled “organic” had expiration dates of up to two years. She notes this meant that in many cases, babies were eating food items that were older than they were.

So she created the Yummy Spoonfuls line of 23 all-organic products. The products are divided into three phases: Creamy Yummy (Stage 1), Mushy Yummy (Stage 2) and Chunky Yummy (Stage 3).

Creamy Yummy is designed for babies age 6 to 9 months. The consistency of the Creamy Yummy products is soft in texture and gentle on babies’ immature digestive systems. Product offerings include peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, papaya, broccoli and pears. Mushy Yummy is for infants age 9 to 12 months and features a more eclectic pairing of foods for a baby’s developing palate. The combinations include potato and broccoli, carrot and parsnip, sweet potato and broccoli, and blueberry and millet cereal, among others. Chunky Yummy is for children age 12 months and older and includes flavors like lentil and carrot porridge and a rice medley.

Sweet Potato Broccoli is a "Mushy Yummy"
(Stage 2) item for infants 9 to 12 months.

Petite Palate was also launched in 2006 by Lisa Beels, a personal chef, and Christine Naylor, a cookbook publicist. The business did well for the first two years and was just one of a handful of frozen food products to get space in Zabar’s on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Its distribution included and about 100 food stores and supermarkets in the Northeast and Midwest. However, plans for expansion—they were hoping to raise $2.5 million to $5 million—were thwarted when the economy when sour and potential investors backed off.

Petite Palate folded in October 2010. Beels told the New York Times in a story about start-up companies that have gone out of business that she and Naylor should have been more open to producing shelf-stable products along with their frozen organic line of baby foods. “It took us a long time to acknowledge that and by then we were in debt and couldn’t support the company,” she told the Times.

Beels has since launched Haute Palate, a personal chef business.

TFFG SAYS: I have fond memories of working with Lisa and Christine when I was editor of Frozen Food Age. I was invited to an event held in Lisa’s high-rise condo tower on the West Side of Manhattan where she and Christine were gathering potential investors. The event was originally planned for the rooftop garden of the building, but high winds forced the event to be moved to her apartment on a very high floor, which commanded amazing views of the Hudson River to the west and Manhattan to the north. It was great to see this trained chef and young mom in action. It was quite an event with her two kids, husband and the family cat all on hand along with Christine and her husband and the potential investors, other guests and press (me).

She was right about the need to expand the product line as two of the early players in the frozen organic baby food category, Happy Baby and Tasty Baby, have done just that, and another start-up, Plum Organics, was acquired by the Nest Collective which, according to Nutrition Business Journal, plans to amass a suite of healthy, organic and nutritional products for kids.