Pulling Back the Curtain: How Nestlé Brings New Meals to Life
From fabulous flavor to perfect packaging, a new endeavor like this takes a dream team
When Stouffer’s Fit Kitchen bowls, came to life, it was more than a simple meal. Packed with protein and modern flavors, Fit Kitchen meals offered an answer to a void in the freezer aisle — a hearty, satisfying meal that consumers can feel good about enjoying. New recipes were created with nutrition in mind and brought a new set of challenges from conception to launch. The project took an incredible integrated team working to develop the product, source the right ingredients, design the packaging, and more. Three team members, Angelo, Stouffer’s Assistant Brand Manager, Rebecca, Stouffer’s Fit Kitchen product developer, and Scott, Packaging Engineer wouldn’t have it any other way:
Let’s start at the beginning- what is Fit Kitchen, and why do I love it so much?
Rebecca, product developer: Fit Kitchen is part of our Stouffer’s brand. It’s really all about figuring out how to deliver a great-tasting meal that makes you feel full and satisfied — but not guilty.
Angelo, assistant brand manager: Exactly, it’s a better-for-you frozen meal. It’s high protein with whole grain rice, quinoa, things like that. With a side of vegetables.
From the king of comfort food? That’s pretty different for Stouffer’s!
Angelo: Yeah, we’re really good at making classic comfort food, like our mac and cheese and lasagna. Something like Fit Kitchen was really out of the box. The product developers, the finance guys — they’re working with ingredients that they’re not used to working with. But we had a great cross-functional team.
So, what kinds of roles did you play for the Fit Kitchen launch?
Rebecca: I’m part of the technical applications group–that’s product development. A lot of ideas, our lovely friends in marketing dream them up, and then we figure out how to bring them to life. We get to work with our finance partners. We have our friends in procurement that we rely on. It’s very much a team spirit.
Scott, packaging engineer: I designed all the packaging, from the bowl that you eat out of to the carton that you see on the shelf, the shipping container — everything.
What was it like coming together as a team for a project of this size?
Scott: They were a very talented and diverse group of folks, and we met regularly. I worked closely with the engineering folks, the procurement folks, product development, marketing. With an innovation project as big as Fit Kitchen, even senior leadership hears about it and wants to know how they can help.
Rebecca: That’s true, and I love the interaction with people from different disciplines. I’ve learned a lot over the years, about how to deal with differences of opinion, or just new ways at looking at a situation, from people who bring different backgrounds, skills, and tools to the table.
How did that dynamic impact your working environment day-to-day?
Angelo: We definitely lean on that wide range of expertise — the folks that know the process and their specific area best. Teams really hit their stride when we can be honest and direct — you know, in a constructive way that moves the team forward and gets the result that everybody wants. I know on Fit Kitchen, with that kind of input, I felt empowered to make smart decisions. I think my cross-functional partners felt the same way.
Scott: We had great leadership from our technical and brand leaders. Everybody had a lot of experience, and we really trusted each other. We could bounce ideas off each other. It was a great working environment.
What is it like working with leadership on such an out-of-the-box project?
Angelo: One of the best things about my job is my access to upper management. You know, reaching out to our more senior leaders and saying, “Hey, I could really do with some coaching in this area; I hear you’re an expert — could you help me out?”
What has been the highlight of your time at Nestlé and on the Fit Kitchen project?
Rebecca: I think the greatest thing about being on a project team is that day you walk into the grocery store, and you’re going down the aisle, and you look over and see your product. Like that’s your baby you brought to life. It’s good to have something you can feel proud of and want to share with other people.
Angelo: I’ve loved the autonomy and ownership. I love the ability to make decisions. And I feel empowered by my management to work on projects like this that excite me and, you know, run with them. Also, I’m a foodie.
Scott: It’s very exciting to be part of a successful launch. You know, leadership always talks about flawless execution — how important it is to produce products efficiently, to launch on time — and Fit Kitchen hit the ground running.
So, why Nestlé? What attracted you in the first place?
Scott: Being able to work directly on food packaging — I’ve always had an interest in it. Packaging engineering, or technical packaging, however you call it, is this really unique blend of technical and creative skills. You want to draw consumers to the shelf, but it also has to work to produce. You get to work with a lot of different materials for a lot of different brands — and that’s exciting for a packaging engineer. [For more evidence of why being a packaging nerd here is amazing, check out The 700 Chocolate Bars that Could Change Packaging.]
Angelo: That’s a great question. For me, it’s the growth and support. I grew up on the manufacturing side, and I wasn’t going to be a great marketer on day one. But Nestlé saw potential and the ability to learn. They were willing to develop me and give me the marketing expertise to be successful. I think that’s really powerful.
Rebecca: That’s so true. The great thing about a global company like Nestlé is we have a wealth of resources. There are a lot of brilliant people working here, who can give you all kinds of support and, you know, insight and advice for any challenge you might face.
Scott: I’m always looking forward to something new and different on my plate.