As consumers seek more natural foods, big companies are in a bind: Can they sell seemingly fresher—yet still packaged and branded—fruits and veggies? Three big food-makers are giving it a shot.
PROBLEM: Lean Cuisine frozen dinner
More than half of shoppers who skip the freezer aisle cite freshness as a deterrent, which is causing a major sales melt for the $44 billion industry.
SOLUTION: Lean Cuisine Salad Additions
Make frozen fresh—with microwavable salad toppings like chicken, carrots, and onion straws, which you toss with your own greens.
REASONING: "We know consumers have lettuce on hand in the refrigerator," says Lean Cuisine marketing director Mike Niethammer. "But preparing chicken and chopping vegetables takes time. Salad Additions gives them everything they need to dress up their lettuce."
PROBLEM: Vlasic jarred pickles
Jarred pickles contain yellow dyes and preservatives, making them unappetizing to a fresh-pickle crowd.
SOLUTION: Farmer's Garden by Vlasic
The new line embraces variety—(slightly) misshapen pickles swimming among slices of garlic, red peppers, and carrots.
REASONING: "We talked to a lot of people who weren't buying our brand but were buying pickles at farmers' markets, and thought, Why not develop an old-world, superpremium line and put it in Mason jars?" says Andy Reichgut, SVP of marketing.
PROBLEM: Dole frozen fruit bag
People love nonperishable fruit, but freezing expands liquid and breaks fruits' cell membranes. That's why frozen fruit is goopy, and best in smoothies.
SOLUTION Dole Frozen Fruit Single-Serve Cups
Let this cup thaw (before, say, lunch), and the fruit inside is still good. The trick: Moisture was removed before the freezing process.
REASONING: "Although the texture was important, it's only half the solution. We learned that see-through cups were key," says marketing director Paul Panza, "because it signals to consumers the fruit is natural."
[Illustrations by Georgina Luck]
A version of this article appeared in the May 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.