Kraft Heinz is launching a pouch for microwave use that replicates products cooked in an oven or on the stove by adding crispiness, marking a key step by the food and beverage giant as it works to accelerate innovation across its portfolio.
Developed in less than a year, it will be rolled out by Kraft Heinz to five new products across four iconic brands by the end of next year. The first product, Lunchables Grilled Cheesies, can create a crispy outside and melty cheese inside in a minute. It will hit shelves this month and mark the 35-year-old brand’s inaugural presence in the frozen category.
The technology, called 360Crisp, uses material with strategic venting and varied heat points to ensure proper cooking throughout the food. It is designed to avoid problems that plagued prior heating systems used by other manufacturers where the crust was burnt and the inside was left cold after microwaving.
Net sales at Kraft Heinz, the maker of Oscar Mayer, Ore-Ida and its iconic ketchup, totaled $26 billion in 2022. The food and beverage manufacturer has targeted innovation as “the single biggest driver” as it aims to boost net sales by $2 billion by 2027, Alan Kleinerman, vice president and head of disruption at Kraft Heinz, said in an email to Food Dive. He noted 360Crisp is viewed as an “important innovation” in achieving that goal.
In 2022, Kraft Heinz created a process it calls One Innovation Engine aimed at reimagining product development and incorporating breakthrough technologies, such as 360Crisp, into its portfolio.
”The things we are doing today would not have been possible at Kraft Heinz even a couple of years ago,” Kleinerman said. “We are constantly exploring how we can bring consumers more convenient options to meet their evolving needs.”
The CPG giant identified Lunchables Grilled Cheesies as a growth opportunity after finding 79% of U.S. households actively purchase frozen foods, and that kids’ snacking is a key driver of expansion within the frozen category.
Kleinerman said in many cases consumers “face a trade-off” when it comes to quality, convenience and taste in the frozen aisle. Kraft Heinz saw an “opportunity to develop an innovation platform that shatters this notion,” he added.
Executives at Kraft Heinz also observed that even though Lunchables is largely associated with lunch as its name implies, 60% of consumers turn to the product as a snack. Grilled Cheesies will be available in both Original and Pepperoni Pizza.
“As current frozen kid-friendly sandwich options fall short in texture and preparation, we chose to offer a nostalgic family favorite that many kids ask for after school, on the weekends and beyond – empowering them to quickly and conveniently prepare it themselves in the microwave,” he added.
The frozen Grilled Cheesies is the latest in a series of innovations for Kraft Heinz.
In May, the company introduced a frozen version of its signature Macaroni & Cheese. It followed that up two months later after its Maxwell House brand debuted its first innovation in nearly a decade with a Iced Latte with Foam.
Lunchables, best known for offerings such as ham and cheese as well as pizza with pepperoni, also has been a prominent source of innovation for Kraft Heinz.
Earlier this year, Lunchables announced its entrance into schools with two products that met National School Lunch Program guidelines. It also has partnered with Fresh Del Monte Produce to enter the produce aisle for the first time with its new fresh fruit products featuring pineapple, clementines, grapes and apples.