It could be argued that there really isn’t much “reality” in reality TV. It’s not often that we find ourselves singing in front of millions of viewers, as contestants do every week on Fox’s “American Idol,” or dating 25 people at once, as “The Bachelor” does on ABC’s reality TV show.

Still, there is nothing unrealistic about the competition, humility and emotions behind these programs. After all, reality show contestants often are chasing some goal - win the money, get the girl, lose the weight - and hitting targets along the way is something to which we all can relate.

Clearly, the refrigerated and frozen food world is no different - and that’s why reality TV is the perfect theme for this year’s annual Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ State of the Industry.

Lucky for us, many of today’s hit reality show formats easily lend themselves to food industry comparisons. Here - as well as in the food world - overcoming challenges, outsmarting the competition, working together and innovative thinking are assets.

You’ve been busy doing all of these things this year and we have done our best to note the trends, concepts and new products that defined your efforts. But unlike Simon, Randy and Paula, we aren’t passing judgment on R&FF’s American Idols (you’ll find no snarky comments or “dawg” references here), but simply admiring the talent.

Here’s a reality check of some of the trends that made this year so exciting to watch:

    • Single-serving packages and portion control. As consumers focus on eating healthier, many are practicing moderation. Single-serving size packages are showing up everywhere from vegetables, Birds Eye Steamfresh Singles, to pizza, Kraft’s DiGiorno For One.

    • Fresh in-store deli offerings. Consumers are cutting back on eating out at restaurants, but they still are looking for meals that are fast and easy-to-prepare. In-store deli offerings increasingly are seen as an attractive alternative.

    • Snacking and eating on the go. Many consumers say eating three meals a day is a thing of the past. A recent study from Tyson Foodservice and Technomic Inc.indicated that just over 30 percent of consumers say they eat two or three complete meals a day. In response, processors are offering microwaveable and portable frozen options, while foodservice suppliers have come out with more hand-held snacks such as wraps and sliders.

    • Healthier options. Consumers are cutting back on salt, sugar and other ingredients and processors are responding with healthier formulations and informative packaging. Products such as Heinz’s Weight Watchers Smart Ones Fruit Inspirations and Kraft’s South Beach Living entrees offer consumers a complete meal made with healthier ingredients such as fruit, protein and whole grains.

    • Organic and natural foods. Natural and organic ingredients have begun moving into mainstream entrees. Information Resources Inc. data indicate dollar sales for natural and organic frozen pizza were up 54.5 percent in the 52-weeks ended Dec. 2, 2007. Some processors have even created entire frozen lines made with natural ingredients such as Kahiki Naturals and Kellogg’s Kashi brand.


    Editors’ note: In putting together our annual State of the Industry issue, R&FF editors tapped into the knowledge and expertise of a number of people representing a wide range of companies and associations. We regret that we do not have room to thank each person here. A special thank you goes out, however, to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc., which provided much of the retail sales data used in this year’s issue.