- Mountain House, which is well known among adventurers for packable sustenance, is bringing freeze-dried meals to the mass market with Simple Sensations.
- The freeze-dried meals come in three flavors: Chicken Fajita Bowl, Italian Pepper Steak and Spicy Southwest Skillet.
- All the meals can be cooked in under 10 minutes by adding boiling water and contain fewer than 280 calories per serving along with 10-18 grams of protein.
From frozen feasts to snacking in lieu of meals, convenience has become one of the most important drivers behind CPG options in the last several years. Especially for younger Gen Z consumers, quick and easy products seem to be the name of the game and the trend shows no signs of slowing.
In a report by Packaged Facts, households headed by adults younger than 25 are 23% more likely to eat frozen dinners and it's 10% more probable they will eat dry packaged dinners, dinner mixes and kits. However, the report notes that although younger consumers want easy-to-prepare foods, they also want healthy options. A SPINS report highlights this trend. From 2018, frozen foods with natural, organic, free-from and functional label claims were top performers in the frozen segment.
With a big incentive behind creating convenient, better-for-you options — Nielsen reports that Gen Z now makes up 26% of the U.S. population and millennials are now the largest living demographic — manufacturers are becoming creative with convenience.
Frozen food has already proven that what was once an overlooked category could become a star-studded supermarket destination. According to research from the American Frozen Food Institute and the Food Marketing Institute, five years ago fresh perimeter sales growth was five times higher than frozen, but by 2017, their positions swapped and the gap continues to grow. Last year, frozen sales saw 2.6% sales growth compared to 1.7% for the total store and 1.4% for fresh. Now it looks like Mountain House thinks that freeze-dried meals are the next category to be up to bat.
What was once the domain of astronauts, long-distance hikers and ramen has now hit the mainstream with protein-packed meal options. Whether consumers will go the distance though remains the question.
That is not to say that consumers are flatly against freeze-dried. From Nestlé instant coffee to freeze-dried fruit in Kellogg cereals and freeze-dried vegetable chips, the concept is not new. In fact, a Mordor Intelligence study that Bakery and Snacks reported showed that the freeze-dried segment is expected to grow at 7.23% between 2017 and 2022 from a value of $46.9 billion in 2016. A report from Garner Insights noted that manufacturers like Chaucer Freeze Dried, Mondelez, Nissin Foods Ltd., Nestlé, Mercer Foods and Unilever have invested in new assets, including quick-freeze technology aimed at better preserving flavor and nutrients. Currently, however, freeze-dried food is more often used in concert with other ingredients rather than as a stand-alone meal option.
Mountain House is taking a bet that consumers are willing to put aside preconceived notions of freeze-dried foods being flavor- and textureless to try these on-the-go meals. New technology does allow for the nutritional value, flavor and aromas to remain intact through the freeze drying process. Still, to be successful it is going to be all about marketing and offering meals that appeal to consumers' growing need for speed while maintaining the all-important health halo.