SEATTLE -- Although large food manufacturers seem to be fiddling while retailers burn over lost meal solution revenue, small companies keep pitching in with new products.
The latest entrant is Fusion Cuisine, a Seattle-based manufacturer of a line of fresh-cooked entrees with a 30- to 40-day shelf life manufactured with no preservatives, according to the company co-founder.
Manufactured with production techniques similar to those used in the sous vide process, the entrees are prepared under modified atmosphere conditions and sealed with oxygen-barrier packaging. Famous Chef recipes were developed in conjunction with various restaurant chefs, said company co-founder Mike Samsel.
Samsel said the items are now carried in some Northwest area club stores and supermarkets, but calls seeking confirmation from the retailers were not returned.
The target consumer for Famous Chef products is the frequent restaurant diner who wants a higher flavor profile from supermarket home-meal replacement items, Samsel said.
The extended shelf life of the Famous Chef line will be a key selling point, Samsel said, since at present, many consumers believe it unappetizing or unsafe to leave a supermarket-packaged HMR meal uneaten for more than a day. Products with extended shelf life encourage consumers to stock up with more than one entree at a time, rather than rushing to the store whenever they want a quick meal, he said.
The first three items in the new product line are spaghettini puttanesca from Seattle's Il Terrazzo Carmine and chef Carmin Smeraldo; clam linguine with garlic, chilies and sun-dried tomatoes from Aspen, Colo.'s Ajax Tavern and chef Nick Morfogen; and chicken sausage and black bean chili from Austin's Texas Chili Parlor and chef Mike Wilhite.
The entrees come in single 16-ounce packages, and are also bundled into club packs. Suggested retail is $6.99 for the two-entree club pack, $4.99 for a single tray package.
The entrees are manufactured by first sauteeing garlic or onions in olive oil, adding other ingredients and then packaging the mixture under modified atmosphere conditions. The atmosphere is then vacuumed out, the package is sealed with oxygen-barrier film, and finally the entrees are cooked through, pasteurized and chilled.
Another item, spicy Asian noodles with chicken, will be released early this year and several more entrees are planned for the first quarter of 1997, said Samsel.