- A Banquet brand buffalo-style chicken mac 'n cheese bowl is just one of the latest offerings from Conagra Foods, which is updating recipes and developing bold packaging to bring its frozen products into the millennial era, according to Food Business News. "A millennial does not know what a Salisbury steak is,” Sean Connolly, president and CEO, said during a recent presentation at the Barclays Global Consumer Staples Conference in Boston.
- Conagra's frozen food brands — including Marie Callender's, Healthy Choice and P.F. Chang's — are a $2.9-billion business for the company but are ready for some changes, according to the company.
- “What I love about our frozen portfolio is we have highly differentiated brands that compete to very different need states within the frozen space," Connolly said.
Conagra is the third-largest frozen foods manufacturer in North America, and Connolly noted that single-serve meals make up the largest part of that sector. While the company has sparked new interest by partnering with well-known brands such as Frontera and P.F. Chang's, it also needs to keep its older consumers coming back for more while establishing a base for future growth.
The company's second-quarter earnings report revealed a 29% rise in quarterly profits, but its gross margins and 2018 profit forecast came in lower than expected. Similar to other large packaged food manufacturers such as General Mills and Kellogg, Conagra is faced with sluggish demand as some U.S. customers opt for what they consider fresher and healthier food products in place of frozen, processed ones.
At the same time, convenience and taste are key for millennials and older customers. Conagra is appealing to the former with trendy items, including a protein meal "Power Bowl" with ethnic spices, while also staying focused on the latter with a stable of standbys such as Chicken Pot Pies, Meatloaf and a Salisbury Steak Meal with Mashed Potatoes.
The strategy seems to be working since Connolly reported that sales during the past 13 weeks had increased 4.8% and were up 7.8% in the the past five weeks. The lesson here may be to stay nimble and keep promotional spending up while appealing to the millennial's desire for a quick and easy-to-prepare version of comfort food.