Mann Packing Co., a pioneer in the fresh-cut vegetable category, is bringing another new-to-the-world concept to the produce department with the first-ever Veggie Mac-n-Cheese kid-friendly meal solution.
The product line includes four flavor profiles using Sargento cheese: classic cheddar, bacon and cheddar, fiesta cheddar and white cheddar. Each cheese sauce is coupled with fresh vegetables and a ready-to-heat pasta packet.
"I'm a mom and I know it can be a battle to getkids to eat their vegetables," Lorri Koster, chief executive officer of Salinas, CA-based Mann Packing, said in a press release. "We developed these products as a solution for parents who want to give their kids healthy meals that taste good — also, meal solutions that kids are familiar with, like macaroni and cheese. Parents will be mealtime heroes with these delicious and nutritious new products."
Each Veggie Mac-n-Cheese package contains up to five one-cup servings and can be prepared in four minutes or less either in the microwave or on the stovetop. The components are placed in a stand-up package designed with vibrant graphics and pictures of kids on the front panel.
"Families are in recipe ruts and looking for convenient meal-time solutions," Christine Keller, Mann Packing's director of marketing and innovation, said in the press release. "We took the familiarity of macaroni and cheese and gave it a fresh vegetable spin. The result is a product that contains 100 percent vitamin C and less than half the calories of other macaroni-and-cheese products in the marketplace, and lower levels of sodium."
The timing of the Veggie Mac-n-Cheese product line capitalizes on the resurgence of macaroni and cheese products in stores and on restaurant menus.
According to Mintel Menu Insights, menu mentions of macaroni-and-cheese products increased 13 percent since 2011, with 943 menu mentions over the past five quarters. Likewise, grocery sales continue to grow due to a proliferation of new flavor profiles added to macaroni and cheese items stocked in the center aisles, deli and frozen food departments.
"Macaroni and cheese is back in vogue — be it upscale versions with lobster and truffle oil or on-trend flavor profiles like buffalo or ranch being added to current grocery lines," Ms. Keller added in the press release. "We felt it was time the produce department had its spin on an American classic. The fact it is a healthy spin is a win for families."
Mann is supporting the launch of Veggie Mac-n-Cheese with an integrated marketing program that includes elements for trade and consumer audiences. The company will use digital and social media to reach consumers, coupled with traditional media, in-store merchandising and grassroots marketing efforts.
"Digital media makes it easy and affordable to reach our audience," Ms. Koster said in the press release. "We have a video called 'The Battle is Over' showing how mom and dad solve the dinnertime vegetable challenge and also a video of school-age football players coming home after practice and making Veggie Mac-n-Cheese for a healthy afternoon snack."
Ms. Keller said that initial response to the product has been overwhelmingly positive: consumer tests showed very high concept interest and purchase intent.
"Response from the buying community has been extremely positive," Ms. Koster added in the press release. "This product launch is a perfect example of how Mann Packing is a company of moms, creating healthy solutions for moms."