New microwave-friendly products to feed the family.

Red means “stop” when it comes to the rules of the road. But what if you’re talking about the retail freezercase? There, Nestlé Prepared Foods’ red-boxed Stouffer’s entrée brand has been a business on the go.

Although Nielsen data for 52 weeks ending August 8, 2008, show a sales dip for the brand’s traditional single-serve offerings, Stouffer’s is still a $1 billion brand with a 31 percent dollar share of the frozen dinner and entrée market. Meanwhile, its multi-serve family meals business recently posted a 4.8 percent gain in dollar sales during the same period.

Looking to revitalize the business, officials say Stouffer’s has introduced more than 13 new single-serve, “casual meal” and multi-serve products during the past 12 to 18 months.

“More recently, economic concerns may be making families more budget conscious,” notes Marketing Director Brett White. “Because of that, they’re also trying to save money by eating out or getting take-out less frequently. Stouffer’s is a great alternative that saves moms and dads time in the kitchen and provides a better value than many out-of-home options.”

That said, Stouffer’s has invested in its multi-serve business. This summer saw the brand launch Easy Express, which officials bill as its “first family meals made for the microwave.” Packaged in paperboard trays (a first for the company), each 28- to 35-ounce entrée in the three-item line is recommended to serve three to six, depending on the meal, Nestlé says. Varieties include Cheesy Garlic Lasagna with Meat and Sauce, Cheese Manicotti and Rigatoni with Chicken.

“Although many of our family entrees can be cooked in the microwave, those recipes were created for - and are best heated in - a conventional oven,” White says. “However, we created the Easy Express family entrees with all new recipes and a new cooking tray to ensure great food for the family right out of the microwave in as little as 10 minutes.”

Stouffer’s has been no less active on the single-serve front, particularly when it comes to lunch and snacking occasions. Already known for its Corner Bistro Panini offerings, Stouffer’s last year introduced Corner Bistro Flatbreads - crispy, seasoned breads topped with on-trend ingredient combinations.

“Stouffer’s ‘casual meals’ continue to grow and become a bigger part of our single-serve business. This growth has been - and continues to be - driven by new product forms like Panini and Flatbread Pizzas,” White says. “These new forms have helped to bring new consumers to the Stouffer’s brand and expand our single-serve meal usage during lunch and snacking occasions. Because of the incremental growth that we are generating for the brand and the category, we will continue to innovate in this area by delivering new casual eating forms and restaurant-inspired varieties.”

Corner Bistro Flatbread varieties include Three-Meat Sicilian; Chicken, Bacon and Spinach on a Basil and Garlic Seasoned Flatbread; Steak Fajita on a Smoked Chipotle Seasoned Flatbread and Margherita on a Basil Parmesan Seasoned Flatbread.

Last, but not least, Stouffer’s is not about to abandon its traditional single-serve entrée consumers. In fact, the business literally is rewarding them. New this year is the Stouffer’s Dinner Club, an interactive online loyalty program where consumers collect “Dinner Club” points every time they purchase a Stouffer’s single-serve meal.  Consumers then can bid their points for rewards during monthly auctions. For example, the August 2008 reward theme was “Dinnertime Entertainment” with rewards such as a Bose home stereo system, a personalized DVD collection and a one-year Netflix subscription.

Notes White, “Through monthly surveys, quick polls and program interaction, our brand will learn more about its consumers in order to continue to refine the program and create more targeted communications.”