Another expression of the company’s commitment to nutrition, health and wellness are 85 “wellness champions” stationed in business units across the globe. They assist the local product developers in various ways to ensure the corporate wellness goals are being met in the units. Chavanne Hanson, who was a market nutritionist with the Prepared Foods unit, is now the wellness champion for Nestlé USA.
Product development at Solon is a cross-functional affair, with marketing, manufacturing and supply chain, quality management, packaging and purchasing represented alongside food technologists. The team meets formally at least twice a month but more often as required. Often subsets of the team convene to address specific issues.
Solon also has a culinary center, a gleaming state-of-the-art facility opened in 2006 under the direction of culinary innovation director Chef Lucien Vendome. The center was designed to embrace cuisines from around the world and accelerate creation of new products.
“We’re a very consumer-driven company,” says Pretzlav. “We spend a lot of time talking to our customers and consumers to understand opportunities, the unmet needs.”
That’s the history of the Prepared Foods business unit. In response to a growing demand for calorie-controlled meals with excellent taste, Nestlé introduced the Lean Cuisine brand in 1981. With more than 100 frozen entreés, pizzas and dinners, Lean Cuisine has become the second largest diet brand behind Diet Coke, according to the company, and one of Nestlé’s most successful U.S. brands. It is also sold in Canada, Mexico and Australia.
All products in the Lean Cuisine range contain less than 10g fat, 4.5g or less saturated fat and less than 95mg cholesterol. They also contain between 150 and 410 calories, and as a result of product reformulation, 36 million extra servings of vegetables have been added to the American diet through Lean Cuisine products since 2007.
“Innovation and renovation” are oft-stated themes. “Sometimes the opportunities exist on products already in the portfolio,” continues Pretzlav. “We study the evolving needs of our consumers, and improve or enhance our products continuously, to meet those new needs or requirements. That’s what renovation means to us.”
Case in point is the Lean Cuisine Spa Cuisine line, developed to provide additional benefits beyond calorie control. First came the introduction of whole grains, followed by “twice the vegetables.” Now the line is increasing fiber and reducing sodium while adding new varieties.
Product and process development went hand-in-hand in the recent development of the Stouffer’s Easy Express line. The family-sized, three-item line cuts microwave cooking time to 20 minutes or less, the result of perfecting the recipes to work optimally in their paperboard packaging, a first for Stouffer’s multiserve products.
Look out in 2010 for the Buitoni brand to make a run at the Unilever Bertolli turf. The Italian-food brand was developed from a long-ago acquisition made by the Carnation Co. Today, Buitoni is known for refrigerated sauces and pastas. The brand took a step forward this year with the introduction of the super premium Riserva line, which combines time-honored Italian culinary techniques with the integrity and flavor of carefully selected ingredients. Starting in 2010, Buitoni will debut a line of premium, frozen Italian meals for two that mark the brand’s first foray into the frozen aisle.