Take Back the Kitchen with Alma Schneider
When I was asked to attend a Stouffer's event in Solon Ohio, the first question I asked myself was, "Who do I know in Ohio that I can visit?". When I realized I couldn't think of anyone except my college roommate's step mother who I visited over 25 years ago, I thought, why would a healthy cooking blogger who encourages people to cook from home go to an event to learn about frozen, packaged food?
I decided that it was worth coordinating child care for the four kids for two days to see what trends are out there in frozen food, who the market is and what the company's plan is to make healthier products. Let's face it, even the most earnest home cook delves into the freezer periodically, myself included, and I wanted to find out what the options are and if some are better than others. Truth be told, I was also enticed by a night of uninterrupted sleep in a comfortable king size bed-alone which of course did not happen since I bolted up at 6:45 from a dream that I was being stabbed by a porcupine in my front yard. What the heck?
So, a group of Stouffer's facebook fans and bloggers were flown out for a two day food extravaganza. We were treated to generous meals and parting gifts from the company but we also were treated to some pretty interesting presentations from the branding /marketing folks.
In my typical TBK fashion, I needed to ask the tough questions so, one by one, I pulled aside the members of the marketing and branding team and put them to the test.
Are your meals healthy and if not, why?
The responses I got were both enlightening and surprising. I found out that Stouffer's is actively working with organizations and companies to improve and enhance flavor naturally without added fats and salt. I also found out, not surprisingly, that when surveyed, most folks say they would prefer whole grains, less fat and salt but when products are offered to them, they are not willing to give up flavor and texture for health. Although the trend is to make healthy, ethnic products, most people want convenience and want the taste of fat and salt.
For this reason, Stouffer's products, including their new line of Farmer's Harvest Products, have less fat than their full fat products but are still pretty high on the sodium and fat content.
Let's face it, Stouffer's is in the business of selling food products that the public buys. This is where we come in. We need to meet companies like Stouffer's in the middle: If they are willing to create products with health benefits, we need to purchase them and/or let them know why their products aren't up to our standard of taste when they are making healthier products.
I will say that many of the Farmer's Harvest products that we tried were tasty, especially their Curry Chicken, and if eaten only when in a pinch, they may not be so bad for us. we all need to indulge once in a while and comfort food is comforting. My hope is that if people like the products, then they will eventually try to replicate them from scratch and make healthier versions on their own.
As for Solon, Ohio, a lovely place to visit with lovely people, including the staff at Stouffer's who treated us very well.
For great recipes, visit Alma at Take Back the Kitchen.