Marie Callender’s Pasta Al Dente
It’s a case where one plus one equals three. ConAgra Foods Inc., Omaha, Neb., has combined its premium Marie Callender’s brand and popular steam cooking technology in a new six-item line of Italian-style meals: Marie Callender’s Pasta Al Dente.

“According to Mintel research, more than 50 percent of consumers who enjoy pasta said they would like to see more offerings with Italian flavors and varieties,” says Scott Berg, Marie Callender’s brand manager. “Knowing this, we responded with the Pasta Al Dente meals that bring consumers the traditional Italian tastes they long for quickly and easily. Now, meals that once took your grandmother all day to prepare in her kitchen can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner in less than five minutes.”

New varieties include Fettucini Chicken Balsamico, Cavatappi Genovese, Tortellini Romano, Rigatoni Marinara Classico, Rigatoni con Pesce and Penne Chicken Modesto. The entrees come in 10- to 11-ounce trays and carry a suggested retail of $3.49. Distribution started in February with the line completing a national roll-out this month.

“The Pasta Al Dente line – featuring quality, single-serve meals – is increasing Marie Callender’s presence at the lunch table with early estimates projecting that 64 percent of Pasta Al Dente will be consumed at lunch,” says Berg. “This opens up a new eating occasion for the brand.

“The lunch occasion is all about convenience,” he continues. “With large portions and a focus on hearty, home-cooked meals, Marie [Callender’s] has traditionally been more of an evening meal. Pasta Al Dente brings Marie’s reputation for quality ingredients and authenticity to the lunch table.”

ConAgra’s patented steam cooking tray format - already in use with the brand’s Healthy Choice Café Steamers - uses technology to circulate steam throughout the meal as it cooks. The steaming process occurs through a two-tray system in which the sauce in the bottom tray (heated separately) helps steam the pasta and other ingredients in the top tray.