You’re either part of the problem or part of the (meal) solution. Pardon the play on words, but a visit to Bellisio Foods has me thinking about certain problems with retail meal solutions.

I’m not talking about refrigerated perimeter departments - such as the deli - where retailers already are engaged in quick meal merchandising. Rather, it’s time to address how processors and retailers can transform the freezercase into more of a mealtime destination.





You’re either part of the problem or part of the (meal) solution. Pardon the play on words, but a visit to Bellisio Foods has me thinking about certain problems with retail meal solutions.

I’m not talking about refrigerated perimeter departments - such as the deli - where retailers already are engaged in quick meal merchandising. Rather, it’s time to address how processors and retailers can transform the freezercase into more of a mealtime destination. Let’s face it: this center-of-the-store section is simply more associated with convenience foods (stock up, eat later) than actual convenient shopping.

Bellisio Foods believes it’s addressing this issue with its 22-item Joy of Cooking line that includes frozen multi-serve entrees, sides, vegetables and breads. For months now, sales reps have talked to retailers about merchandising all these products - side-by-side - in one destination door.  That way, a harried shopper (perhaps with hungry, tired children in tow) doesn’t have to keep traveling from aisle to aisle.

Just consider these comments from Maris Ehlers, Bellisio Foods’ vice president of New Products and Ventures.

One: “While researching our Joy of Cooking line, we visited different stores across the United States. Very quickly, it was clear that retailers were most creative when it came to the perimeter departments. Even in the most innovative stores, the freezer aisles were all the same. You really couldn’t see much difference from store to store.”

Two: “When I look at various organizations who are creating, developing, selling and marketing products to women - I’m shocked at the number of them that have no idea what [women’s] lives are really like. I think the female head-of-household shopper is the most critical and yet sometimes the most undervalued consumer the grocery store has.”

Three: “No family is the same and one family isn’t the same from day-to-day. There’s a lot of ‘shift’ eating going on where half the family’s eating dinner at 5:30 p.m. and the other half is eating at 8 p.m., or some variation of that. Frozen [foods] need to bring a new level of flexibility that goes beyond even what the deli can offer.”

Four: “A big piece of [the challenge] involves understanding what the experience is like when that person is shopping the [freezer aisle]. It means understanding what she needs the outcome to be - whether it’s a stock-up trip or a harried 5 p.m. visit where she’s thinking, ‘What’s for dinner?’ In either case, we need to have the solutions she needs.  The truth is, she’s employing all of us to do a job for her and if we don’t deliver she’ll look elsewhere.”

Five: “We’re telling retailers, ‘Here’s an unmet need. Consumers are getting meals from an ever increasing variety of sources, and sometimes they’re making choices that they don’t necessarily want to make. If you can give her a solution that she can feel good about, it will make her more loyal to you .’ . . . We help them understand that Joy of Cooking is a powerful platform that fits all her shopping needs and a variety of shopping occasions.”

Will the nation’s retailers step up to this new platform? At a time when retailers are realizing greater success in the deli, I think there’s no better time to engage them in a more meaningful discussion about new approaches in frozen food merchandising.