Shop­pers thaw to healthy food

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - MONEY - By Rachel Siegel The Wash­ing­ton Post

Amer­i­cans are warm­ing up to frozen foods.

Con­sumers are eat­ing more veg­eta­bles and pro­tein, and their reser­va­tions about eat­ing frozen foods — long dubbed an un­sat­is­fy­ing diet op­tion or loaded with ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents — are start­ing to thaw. Mean­while, frozen food com­pa­nies are re­vamp­ing their prod­ucts to in­clude more health­ful, fla­vor­ful op­tions. And while dishes like Mango Edamame Power Bowls or Sweet and Spicy Harissa Meat­balls add an in­ven­tive­ness to the freezer aisle, one of frozen foods’ chief at­trac­tions has stayed rock solid: con­ve­nience.

“Frozen food man­u­fac­tur­ers have fig­ured out that, ‘Hey, we can give con­sumers a path to hav­ing au­then­tic and whole­some in­gre­di­ent meals at home with a high level of con­ve­nience,’ ” said David Por­ta­latin, food in­dus­try ad­viser for The NPD Group. “Let’s give them the clean la­bel, or­ganic or non-GMO. Let’s put the qual­ity back in.”

Con­sumers are ea­ger for op­tions to sim­plify cook­ing, yet few meal-kit ser­vices “have shown a ca­pa­bil­ity to turn a profit,” a re­cent RBC Cap­i­tal Mar­kets re­port notes. That has an­a­lysts won­der­ing whether peo­ple

are will­ing to pay steep prices for what is ul­ti­mately a more la­bo­ri­ous and time­con­sum­ing way to pre­pare food.

As the RBC re­port put it: “Isn’t a frozen din­ner just a meal-kit that costs less with­out the work?”

The re­port showed that the frozen food mar­ket has grown for the first time in five years, grow­ing 1 per­cent

in the 12 weeks lead­ing up to March 10. As mil­len­ni­als seek out nu­tri­tious and well-rounded meals with­out sac­ri­fic­ing con­ve­nience, frozen veg­eta­bles, fruits and pre­pared foods present a rel­a­tively cheap and easy­ac­cess op­tion. That’s true for younger peo­ple and fam­i­lies who are less in­ter­ested in eat­ing out — whether that’s be­cause they’re work­ing from home or hav­ing din­ner with a side of Net­flix.

In the back­drop is con­sumers’

dwin­dling stigma against the freezer aisle, of­ten pit­ted against the outer perime­ter of gro­cery stores stocked with fresh proteins and pro­duce. Ex­perts say frozen foods are now more com­monly un­der­stood to not nec­es­sar­ily con­tain added salts or sug­ars and can find their place from break­fast to dessert.

Frozen foods can also claim some nu­tri­tional and en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­van­tages over fresher fare.

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