Why Aren’t You Eating Lean Cuisines?

You may remember the announcement last week that Nestle USA would be cutting back on artificial flavorings and salt in its frozen food products. That widely-publicized announcement isn’t about the company’s concern for its customers’ health: Nestle is concerned about the health of its frozen food business. Specifically the Lean Cuisine brand.

Lean Cuisine was born 34 years ago, when Americans’ ideas about food and health were very different. It doesn’t help that younger adults see frozen meals as overly processed and unhealthy. These are the reasons for a recent revamping of the brand changes its emphasis with the times: instead of fat and calories, the marketing materials emphasize protein and ingredients that are organic and gluten-free.

While competitor ConAgra is currently working hard to court senior citizens, the Lean Cuisine brand is working to attract younger and hipper customers. Their aim: attract people who are interested in hot “superfood” ingredients, but who also don’t turn up their noses at frozen dinners.

Lean Cuisine sales have fallen 20% in the last two years. What are people eating for lunch at work instead? Nestle’s Lean Cuisine chef and his team have tested thousands of recipes in the last 16 months, reading up on food trends to figure out what a wide cross-section of Americans might be interested in.

Of course, asking consumers what they want to eat doesn’t necessarily work: we might say that we want to eat braised kale, then slink through the grocery self-checkout with a pile of Hot Pockets.

Lean Cuisine Chef’s Daunting Task: Clearing Out 13-Story Freezer [Bloomberg]