“Historically, frozen food manufacturers have failed to move with consumers as they have looked for more adventurous, better-prepared, higher-quality ingredients,” and as a result consumers have left the frozen food aisle, which traditionally has offered heavily processed foods made with lower quality, artificial ingredients, said Leo Griffin, CEO of Artisan Bistro.
“We are working to bring those consumers back to frozen” by addressing head on all the things traditional frozen food has done poorly, Griffin said.
“Our products are all made with a higher caliber of ingredients than our competitors. We are using 70% organic ingredients, everything is gluten free and we use a very high quality of animal protein, including wild sustainably caught fish, free range chicken and grass fed beef,” he said, adding Artisan Bistro’s meals also have no MSG or high fructose corn syrup.
As an example, he pointed out the company’s new line of Seafood Bowls is the first frozen entrée line in North America to bear the blue Marine Stewardship Council eco-label for sustainable, wild caught seafood.
“While we have always used sustainable seafood, but going the next step and getting the Marine Stewardship Council certification, which demonstrates the line of custody that we are using comes from fisheries certified as sustainable and well-managed,” was the next logical step, he said.
The certification also demonstrates the company’s commitment to preserving the bounty of the ocean for future generations, while also ensuring a great tasting product, he said. The certification also aligns with many retailers’ initiatives to shelve sustainable seafood, he added.
The line also demonstrates the firm’s commitment to providing more adventurous flavors in the frozen section. It includes a wild Alaskan salmon in Dijon sauce, a shrimp with quinoa penne in an organic tomato sauce, a New England style chowder cod fish bowl and an orange miso cod with noodles, Griffin said.
The line meets consumers’ increasing interest in the health benefits of seafood, as well, he noted.
Other new launches
The seafood line follows several other recent launches, including Artisan Bistro’s “brunch in a box” options, which are based on egg white patties in classic combinations, such as with potatoes and sausage, as well as more modern flavor profiles such as salsa verde or a meatless chorizo.
The breakfast bowls are in response to consumers’ dwindling interest in ready to eat cereal and increasing demand for protein, Griffin said.
The firm also launched last month 7-ounce burritos in a gluten-free tortilla that stands apart “as a satisfying lunch” compared to the competition’s 4- or 5-ounce frozen burritos, which are snack sized, Griffin said.
Meals for two
Artisan Bistro also undated the way frozen entrees for more than one person are packaged for a more versatile and pleasurable cooking and eating experience.
Its meals for two, which launched last year, are packed on two trays. The first has an animal protein, and the second holds the vegetables. The duel trays allow consumers to microwave the foods for different amounts of time and gives them the option of skillet cooking the protein, he said.
Artisan Bistro recognizes that if consumers don’t bother coming down the frozen food aisle, its efforts to update the category will be lost.
In response, the company has “embarked recently on a press campaign,” with high profile appearances on the Today show and in Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping and Prevention magazines, Griffin said.
In addition, Actress Kyle Richards of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills joined the company as an investor and is aggressively promoting the line as part of the firm’s strategy to bring consumers back to the frozen entrée category, Griffin said.
“She discovered us by eating our products and as a busy mom of four she loves what we do … and is a big advocate and ambassador for us,” Griffin said.
Artisan Bistro also is working with retailers to refresh their approach to frozen by promoting natural and organic products, which are a growth driver for the category and “the core of what we do,” Griffin said.
Finally, the firm is exploring the use of digital tools that will communicate with consumers when they are in the store to direct them to the frozen aisle to find the products, Griffin said.
Ultimately, Artisan Bistro hopes to achieve its goal of reinvigorating the frozen aisle by staying focused on “raising the bar for all these things, the ingredient standard and culinary profile and by tightening our marketing,” Griffin concluded.