The votes are in for Refrigerated & Frozen Foods2017 Best New Retail Products contest. Congratulations to Robert Irvine Foods, Tampa, Fla., for placing fourth for Signature Sidekicks, a line of healthy side dishes.

Marina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods and the creator of the Best New Retail Products contest, talked exclusively with Robert Irvine, founder, to discuss the “winning” product and what’s in store for the future.


Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: First off, congratulations on placing FOURTH PLACE in Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2017 Best New Retail Products contest. Celebrity chef Robert Irvine’s new line of Signature Sidekicks nabbed 3,590 votes. What does this recognition mean to you, your company, your products and your consumers?

Robert Irvine: To me, it means that word is getting out about Sidekicks, and that makes me overjoyed. With Sidekicks, we only wanted to make the customers happy. The fact that so many of them took time out of their busy schedules to vote for us – that is humbling.

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

Irvine: I don’t know that we had a plan beyond sharing the link to vote with my social audience. To run an aggressive campaign to try to win seemed antithetical; if the product is good enough and the word is out, then it’ll get the votes.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Your new retail product— Signature Sidekicks—was nominated by Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ editor-in-chief, Marina Mayer. What features does this new product hold that would allow it to even be nominated?

Irvine: We worked hard to create a product that is fresh, healthy and delicious, but above all, totally easy for the home cook to make. If a product is adding confusion or work to someone’s life, then it’s not adding any value, it’s actually taking away. It has to be simple to make, and Sidekicks are just that.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Sold exclusively in the fresh produce section, Signature Sidekicks feature neatly packaged, quality ingredients that can be prepared with just three simple steps in less than 10 minutes. What does this say about the future of the side dishes market? We don’t see too many refrigerated side dishes.

Irvine: We’re growing fast, so the market is absolutely there, and I think you’ll see the category get quite big in the coming years. What has enabled us to get a foothold is that we’re relatively small and agile and can respond quickly to demand. We’re also able to give a lot of attention to quality control and ensure that each shipment is arriving fresh.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Why create this new product?

Irvine: My mission with everything I’ve done—from food products to kitchen gadgets to the books I’ve written—is to make life a little bit better and a little bit simpler for anyone who makes a purchase. Sidekicks definitely fit within that mission. The feedback thus far has been phenomenal, so I know we’re on the right track.

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

Irvine: The clamshell, which is made from recycled materials, is sealed for freshness. Specific ingredients are separated into their own bags to further protect against spoilage. Everything is perfectly portioned, so you can put the measuring cups and spoons away. Just open the container, combine the ingredients and put it in the pan. It doesn’t get easier than that.

Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What is on the horizon for your company come 2018?

Irvine: We’re always looking at ways to better serve our customers, and that includes looking at developing new recipes for new products. Since our founding, we’ve developed FitCrust Pizzas, better-for-you gourmet crab cakes, reduced-fat cheesecakes and our own line of grapeseed oil. We are lucky though to be privately owned and not have to satisfy any outside pressure to expand too quickly or constantly create new products. I’d rather see Robert Irvine Foods be exceptional—to have the company become synonymous with quality—than to simply try to be the biggest.