Garden Lites—Pioneers of Better-for-You Category
When Garden Lites launched in 2008, it made the simple promise of producing veggie-rich products using only clean and simple ingredients. Today, the Jamaica, N.Y.-based company is the pioneer behind better-for-you products with items such as frozen muffins, snacks and entrées. Unlike other health-and-wellness companies, Garden Lites’ entire portfolio of products share one common factor—all foods are made with vegetables as the first ingredient.
“Garden Lites’ first product offerings were our frozen vegetable soufflés, which quickly became available nationwide in the natural frozen section,” says Andy Reichgut, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “The niche format of a veggie-rich soufflé definitely touched a nerve with consumers, allowing the company to gain a foothold in the freezer case. We learned that consumers loved our ingredient statement, especially veggies always being the first ingredient, as well as using only clean and simple ingredients.”
Garden Lites introduced its line of frozen muffins in 2013, providing a portable and nutritionally smart way for shoppers to consume baked goods.
“These muffins were such a hit with the whole family, especially kids, that we recently expanded the line to include Nickelodeon-licensed kids snack muffins,” adds Reichgut. “Featuring flavors like Chocolate Krabby SpongeBob Muffins and Ninja Power Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Muffins, these muffins deliver the amazing taste and nutrition consumers have come to expect from Garden Lites. It was also important to us to make them allergy friendly, including gluten free, nut free and dairy free. The added whimsy of characters printed on each individually wrapped muffin make them a hit at the lunch table. It’s a great way to feed your kids vegetables and have them begging for more.”
In 2014, Garden Lites developed a Cheddar Broccoli Bake, a nutritious dish chock full of broccoli, brown rice, select spices and topped off with cheddar cheese that went on to place No. 2 in Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Best New Retail Products (July 2015 issue). And, earlier this year, Garden Lites launched additional new products—Mac & Cheese and Veggie Bites poppable snacks.
Achieving food safety certifications
Because the food’s quality and safety is always first priority for Garden Lites, it went beyond standard FDA requirements and acquired an SQF certification program beginning in 2011.
“We recently achieved a 98.5% on our level II audit and are in the process of achieving SQF Level III,” says Maricela Toro, director of quality assurance. “This initiative requires us to put programs in place that ensure we always deliver the highest quality food.”
Garden Lites’ Jamaica facility, which is home to 80 employees, is an all-kosher plant that utilizes state-of-the-art temperature monitoring equipment and upgraded employee training and development in its best-in-class QA department. Plus, it instituted a process ensuring that the facility is audit ready every day.
The Jamaica site also produces refrigerated products for store brand prepared foods and foodservice, and is at roughly 30% capacity, leaving room for long-term growth, according to Reichgut.
“We see a tremendous opportunity in the way consumers have defined healthy foods over the years, and how it is changing,” he adds. “At the heart of our story is the journey consumers are taking, moving toward foods that are healthier. Thirty years ago, healthy food was all about low-fat foods and the engineered food science of diet meals. Messages have changed since then. In the attempt to eat healthier, mainstream consumers have transitioned to versions of their favorite comfort foods (e.g. macaroni and cheese and pizza) that have clean, organic or non-GMO ingredients. This is where we see the opportunity for Garden Lites.”
At a Glance
Company Name: Garden Lites
HQs: Jamaica, N.Y.
No. of Employees: 80
Products: Frozen muffins, snacks and entrées
Brands: Garden Lites