"Expanding the Bowls line was a great opportunity to leverage growing demand for frozen foods. Consumers seek flavorful, convenient heat-and-eat options that provide a more complete meal," Jennifer Barnes, vice president & general manager at Sweet Earth Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA.
According to Barnes, Sweet Earth's entrée bowls are the largest product line for the brand, growing by double digits in the last 52 weeks.
"Bowls have been a brand staple for years now and closely reflect our mission to provide wholesome and delicious options that help make it easy for consumers to eat plant based," she said.
'Grocery stores are filling shelves with globally inspired dishes and ingredients'
Its newest frozen entrée bowls varieties -- Korean BBQ-Style Chik'n Entrée Bowl and Cacio e Pepe -- are the latest globally-inspired flavors for the Sweet Earth brand, which has seen strong success with other international flavors in its portfolio such as its General Tso Bowl and Curry Tiger Bowl offerings, which have both become top consumer favorites, according to Barnes.
"Over the past few years, international flavors have become more popular and grocery stores are filling shelves with globally inspired dishes and ingredients. Cacio e Pepe and Korean BBQ are two dishes that have surged in demand, gaining momentum across restaurant menus, social media and among foodies," said Barnes.
"Sweet Earth is expanding our frozen bowls line in response to the continued growth in consumer demand for frozen meals that satisfy these interests."
According to Datassentials June 2021 data, consumption of Cacio e Pepe has grown by over 35% in restaurants and Korean BBQ is one of the top Korean dishes consumed in the US.
Like its other plant-based bowl offerings, Korean BBQ-Style Chik'n Entrée Bowl and Cacio e Pepe both feature plant-based ingredients such as gluten-free chickpea pasta and parmesan-style cheese made from cashews mixed with whole vegetables.
Both entrée bowls are available at select Target locations nationwide with a suggested retail price of $4.99. The Sweet Earth Korean BBQ-Style Chik'n entrée bowl will also be available at select Meijer, HEB, and Giant Food stores nationwide starting this month with increased availability in the coming weeks.
What's driving demand in the frozen foods aisle?
The frozen foods aisle has been a growth driver for retailers since 2016 with its value coming more into focus over the past two years, according to the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI).
Sales of frozen foods increased by 21% in 2020 vs. 2019 with nearly all types of frozen foods seeing double-digit gains. Demand continued into 2021 as frozen food sales remained 21% above pre-pandemic 2019 levels, noted AFFI.
'People lean towards plant-based versions of the flavorful and comforting recipes they love'
Plant-based options within the frozen foods aisle have continued to be a huge draw for consumers looking to reduce their meat intake, according to Barnes, who noted how the brand is seeing consistent and strong demand for all of its products, from plant-based bacon to bowls, and especially for its plant-based Chik'n made from a soy protein concentrate.
"Sweet Earth continues to see on social media and responses from our consumers that people lean towards plant-based versions of the flavorful and comforting recipes they love. This preference gives us at Sweet Earth room for greater innovation, as we prioritize making a variety of flavor-forward dishes we know consumers will love for various occasions," she said.
"Additionally, Nestlé USA has reported that 69% of people are looking for nutritious frozen meals. Sweet Earth is innovating in spaces, such as the freezer aisle, to give consumers more plant-based, delicious options that widen the flavor profiles of prepared, frozen dishes."
"We believe that the future remains bright for plant-based meat. It is clear that consumer interest in healthier, planet-friendly foods will continue to grow," added Barnes.