As fast as the days go, as busy as we get and as demanding as our lives have become, it’s little wonder each and every one of us is looking for something quicker when it comes time to eat. But wouldn’t it be nice if those fast eats could also be healthy ones?
For me, frozen food is a great option for those harried workdays when I don’t have time to cook. I know what you’re thinking – “healthy” isn’t the first adjective that comes to mind when describing frozen food! But, don’t fret. The freezer cases are filling up fast with a bunch of healthier frozen options. In fact, according to Transparency Market Research, the frozen category will grow 3.9% from 2013 to 2019 as a direct result of healthier frozen foods’ increasing popularity.
As the frozen market evolves, it’s not just about pizza and ice cream anymore. More and more brands are developing innovative and healthy options as a way to appeal to different segments of the market (The Times-Picayune). You’ll find a growing number of natural or non-GMO brands, like Evol, Luvo, Blake’s and Amy’s Kitchen on the freezer shelves, while stalwart brands, like Lean, are having to reformulate to stay relevant and competitive.
Which brings me to this week’s Try it Tuesday! This week we sampled that essential frozen favorite, Mac & Cheese!
The contenders included: evol’s Truffle Parmesan Mac & Cheese, Amy’s Macaroni & Cheese (Made with Organic Pasta) and Lean Cuisine Macaroni & Cheese. Not surprisingly, evol’s recent growth in the frozen aisle is attributed to their increasing acceptance by millennials and younger audiences. (Food Business News).
Amy’s Kitchen Light & Lean Spinach Lasagna and Lean Cuisine Lasagna with Meat Sauce were the next options. Amy’s Kitchen products are made with certified organic ingredients (Food Business News).
As I mentioned, Lean Cuisine is now evolving its brand with the changing frozen food market to offer healthy trends and ethnic options rather than just being a lean option (Food Business News).
Lastly, we tried the evol Cilantro Lime Chicken Burrito and the Amy’s Kitchen Black Bean Vegetable Burrito.
This may be the agency’s favorite cutting yet!
Everyone wanted in on the action.
Here are my co-workers critiques of the brands we sampled:
April: “I definitely preferred the Amy’s brand (for both) over the LC brand. While it was a frozen/microwaved meal, the Amy’s tasted more as if you made it yourself, while the LC brand in both instances tasted like a frozen meal, and had a “diet” aftertaste.”
Josef: “The evol Truffle Mac & Cheese had the most flavor, and the lasagna (the meaty one) had the best flavor. While the burritos were both perfectly edible, I would most likely douse them in Sriracha or something if I had them again.”
Tina: “The evol Mac & Cheese far exceeded my expectations – it was delicious! And…I was expecting to read the nutritional information and cringe – happily, not the case!”
Laura: “evol Truffle Mac and Cheese! I’m a HUGE Mac & Cheese fan and it was pleasantly surprising to find a quick, frozen option that actually came close to tasting like the gourmet restaurant style variety. Pretty impressed! I purposely did not check the nutritional value because, really, if you’re going for mac & cheese, you shouldn’t totally be worrying about all the details. However, post-indulgence, I did take a peek. Unfortunately, 27g grams of fat and 680mg of sodium is too much for me!
Ryan: “The Amy’s was actually pretty good. It looked a little more natural and tasted okay. I’d probably be okay eating it for lunch in a pinch. The evol — it was the best of the bunch. The truffle flavor was a bit overpowering — but I’ll take that over the bland Lean Cuisine any day.
The lasagna — eh. Neither option really did much for me. If I had to pick though, I’d actually say that I preferred the Lean Cuisine. The Amy’s option had the nice addition of the spinach, but it wasn’t enough to overcome its otherwise so-so flavor.
I was really looking forward to trying the burritos. They both seemed to have promise. For a microwaved meal, the EVOL chicken + cilantro wasn’t bad. The Amy’s bean burrito — it just tasted like beans. Nothing special here.”
Clearly consumers are hungrier than ever for convenient meal options. And manufacturers are scrambling to develop delicious products that also meet their consumers’ growing desire for “healthy”.
Check out the freezer aisle at your grocery store this week and we think you’ll agree – it’s getting easier and easier to get fast, tasty and better-for-you in the same package.