SKOKIE, Ill. -- Topco Associates here has recently begun an expansion of its frozen food offerings and plans to introduce 30 new items under the Food Club label or its members' labels.
The cooperative will also introduce four stockkeeping units of organic frozen vegetables under its new Full Circle brand. Full Circle is also launching grocery products, expecting soy milks and cereal products will probably be the two biggest categories.
New Food Club frozen products that debuted last month include a three-item line of French Toast Slices, French Toast Sticks and Cinnamon French Toast Sticks. Most items are prepared, value-added products, company representatives said.
"We're really playing up the convenience factor," said Ted Kontopoulos, product manager, frozen foods, for Topco.
He added that many retail members are very interested in the Full Circle organic line. The first phase is frozen vegetables, and the first four SKUs to be ready are sweet corn, peas, cut beans and a four-vegetable blend -- all 16-ounce bagged packages. Topco is taking orders for them now.
More and more farmers are setting aside land to grow organically, said Fred Arnal, in charge of the Full Circle program, so there will soon be a lot more supply coming on-line.
The company also debuted three varieties of Pizza Bites and three varieties of Mini Bagels with pizza-like toppings, and is working on a rice bowl line. Other new products include garlic sticks, Parkerhouse yeast rolls, Southern style biscuits, a line of breakfast strudels and a line of premium pot pies. In addition, Topco plans to add four new varieties of frozen meat and roll out the rice bowls this year.
The new products feature distinctive packaging to help them stand out on the shelves and can be ready to eat in less than eight minutes.
Topco is looking at expanding or re-launching its skillet dinner line, by adding one or two flavors; currently it has four offerings. Topco's meat department is working with its frozen food department to come up with total meal solutions for the center of the plate, which will be supplemented with side dishes like broccoli/rice casserole, potatoes au gratin, scalloped potatoes and twice-baked potato. "They are hearty, something you could serve to your family that speaks of hours of preparation," Kontopoulos added.
Topco is comprised of retailers spread out in many states, and outside the United States, such as in Israel and Puerto Rico. "We look at how they set up their stores; get a feel for the customer demographics and a feel for what their competition is and what the retail price points are," said Kontopoulos.