The votes are in for Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2015 Readers’ Choice Best New Retail Products contest. Congratulations to Garden Lites, Jamaica, N.Y., for Garden Lites veggie bakesplacing second with a total of 1,234 votes for its Veggie-Filled Bakes.

Marina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods and the creator of the Readers’ Choice Best New Retail Products contest, talked exclusively with Andy Reichgut, executive vice president of sales and marketing, to discuss more in-depth about the contest, the “winning” product and what’s in store for the future.


Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: First off, congratulations on being named one of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Top 5 Readers’ Choice winners in 2015. What does this recognition mean to you, your company and its products?

Andy Reichgut: At Garden Lites, we are proud that our new Cheddar Broccoli Bake was recognized for this award. We work very hard to make delicious veggie-rich foods consumers will love. It is our passion, and that is why we are “The Delicious Vegetable Company.”

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Your new retail product—Veggie-Filled Bakes—placed No. 2 with 1,234 votes. What features does this new product hold that would allow it to even be nominated?

Reichgut: Garden Lites’ new Cheddar Broccoli Bakes bring a number of unique features, most importantly an amazingly delicious meal consumers can feel great about eating. Veggies are the first and primary ingredient, which is true of all Garden Lites items. They are nutritionally smart—low calories, high in protein and whole grains and made with clean and simple ingredients. Plus, they are gluten-free.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: How did you go about accruing so many votes? What was your plan?

Reichgut: All we did was tell our community of Garden Lites fans to vote. Some of them wish we had broader distribution, and they realized a vote for Garden Lites might help get the new Cheddar Broccoli Bites in their favorite store.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What goes into developing a new product?

Reichgut: A lot goes into any new Garden Lites product. First, we always make sure to stay to our brand principles—delicious veggie-rich foods with clean and simple ingredients, nutritionally smart and veggies as the first ingredient.

The first step is identifying consumer insights and trends. We review what are the best trending vegetable-based recipes online as well as in restaurants. We do ethnographic research with our consumers (shop-alongs, in-home research, etc.). From here, we develop new item concepts based on this information.

The second step is to conduct consumer qualitative and quantitative research on new item concepts developed from our insights. Product prototypes are then developed and shared with consumers for input. Changes are made based on consumer feedback.  

Finally, we execute a product/concept fit study with consumers. Once a product passes all the hurdles in this rigorous process, we start the commercialization process.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Any unique features to the product’s packaging?

Reichgut: The Garden Lites Cheddar Broccoli Bake is designed so you can eat at home or take with you to prepare. The microwavable container is over-wrapped, making it portable. It can be heated and eaten in the same container. 

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What is on the horizon for your company?

Reichgut: We have a lot of exciting new items that are performing incredibly well. Our new Garden Lites Muffins have become the fastest growing segment in the natural freezer section since launch. In just their first six months in the market, they have achieved an incredible repeat rate (almost three times the average) because of their incredible taste and very unique benefits. All our muffins have veggies as the first ingredient, are gluten-free, amazingly delicious and versatile (individually wrapped, can heat for 30 seconds or allow to thaw for two hours—makes them a great portable healthy snack). That is why they have received such an amazing repeat rate. 

We have expanded the line of muffins to include new snack muffins for kids. They come in two varieties—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob Krabby Patty.  

The Ninja power muffins are 30% veggies (Zucchini and Spinach) and are gluten-free. Moms love them because their kids are eating vegetables and because of the portability. Kids love them because of the taste and the fact that each muffin is wrapped with a Teenage Mutant Ninja character.

Sponge Bob Krabby Patty chocolate muffins are also 30% veggies (Zucchini and Carrots) and gluten-free. Moms and kids love them for the same reasons—each square-shaped muffin (square for Sponge Bob Squarepants) comes in a Sponge Bob wrapper.