Conagra Unleashing a Landslide of Truly Novel Products

Feb. 27, 2024
Angie’s Boomchickapop as a frozen novelty? Dolly Parton mac & cheese. Wendy’s chili in a can.

While it’s mostly about finance, there’s a fair amount of marketing going on at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York annual meeting. CEOs of some of the biggest publicly held food and beverage companies are marketing their companies to the 500 or so financial analysts in attendance, in the process some give hints about what’s coming down the new product pipeline.

Every company offered a new product or two, but Conagra overwhelmed in that department this year with not only logical line extensions but some downright audacious stretches. Company executives touted their leadership in the frozen aisle, which they claim still has legs, and many of the innovations were in that department.

Angie’s Boomchickapop, the popcorn brand Conagra bought in 2017, is launching frozen novelties, starting with a “strawberry almond crunch pop” on a stick. Vlasic offers a bag of pickle balls (latching onto that sport craze). Many are fond of Wendy’s chili; Conagra’s put it in a can.

Tom McGough, executive vice president and co-COO, broke up his presentation with a video message from Dolly Parton, who lent her name to Duncan Hines cake mixes last year. This year Conagra will stretch the Duncan-Dolly cobrand into the freezer case with chocolate pie, cheesecake and macaroni & cheese.

Healthy Choice, which McGough claims overtook Nestle’s Lean Cuisine in the healthy frozen entree category, is rolling out “multi-component, modern twist” frozen dinners such as creamy marinara chicken, balsamic garlic steak and salsa verde chicken. The Evol brand offers hot honey chicken, chicken adobo and garlic herb steak.

Hungry Man, known for its larger portions of a single entrée, is combining two in the same box, Orange Chicken with Teriyaki Chicken, while Marie Callender’s pairs chicken alfredo with chicken parmigiana

The Bertolli brand is getting into appetizers: toasted ravioli and arancini (friend risotto balls), both air fryer-ready. Chef Boyardee ventures out of the Beefaroni can to deliver frozen skillet dinners in pouches. Pam has a new formula of spray cooking oils optimized for air fryers.

Switching places: Birds Eye is trying out potatoes (cheesy potato casserole, loaded mashed potatoes) while Alexia samples vegetables (parmesan truffle broccoli, balsamic brussels sprouts & carrots, hot honey carrots).

Even with all that innovation, Conagra forecasts sales this year will decline 1-2%.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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