Lean Cuisine, part of the Swiss food giant Nestlé, announced it has expanded its frozen entrée line to include meatless and mostly organic offerings — along with two vegan dishes — under the Origins label.
The company said it was broadening options for consumers by presenting on-trend ingredients in innovative ways. For example, the entrées feature cauliflower in lieu of mashed potatoes, lentil pasta and lasagna with layers of feta cheese and butternut squash.
Lean Cuisine noted that 23% of U.S. consumers said they want more plant-based protein options. In addition, a recent survey indicated that demand for organic foods is at an all-time high.
Nestlé and Lean Cuisine have been paying attention to consumer demand for more meatless meals, organic ingredients and the trend toward vegan dishes. The Origins label is Lean Cuisine's latest foray into plant-based packaged foods, and the two new vegan offerings — Coconut Chickpea Curry and Sicilian-Style Pesto with Lentil Pasta — are helping to bring the brand into the modern era.
Nestlé entered the meatless space with its 2017 acquisition of Sweet Earth, a California plant-based foods maker. At the time, Nestlé said the segment was "growing by double digits and expected to become a $5 billion market by 2020." No doubt the company's experience since that purchase has informed its rollout of the meatless and predominantly organic Origins lineup by providing insights into tastes and flavors consumers want and how to go about marketing them.
Meatless products have been appearing with regularity in the marketplace as innovations get better at mimicking the taste, texture and appearance of the real thing. The success of the Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger are examples of plant-based products that have done a good job of appealing to customers trying to limit their meat consumption. A recent Mattson survey found three out of four people would like to eat more plant-based foods for health reasons, to lose weight and feel better, or to help the environment.
Given Lean Cuisine's popularity, recognizable brand name and market share — Statista reported its products were rated No. 3 and No. 6 on a list of the highest-selling single-serve frozen dinner brands last year — the Origins lineup should be able to compete against other frozen meatless meals. The top-selling single-serve frozen dinner brand in 2017 was Stouffer's — also owned by Nestlé. While Stouffer's has an extensive meatless lineup, others in the space don't seem to have nearly as many.
Nestlé and other big food companies have been revamping their frozen meals in an effort to attract consumers looking for convenient, tasty, low-cost and better-for-you options. According to a RBC Capital Markets report this past spring, volume growth edged up 1% for the 12 weeks ending March 10, which was the first positive volume growth for frozen foods in five years. The largest increase of 3% came from appetizers and meals. For Nestlé, the new Origins line hits many of the trendy areas that consumers are looking for in the foods they eat.