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Frozen food group seeks turnaround

NEW YORK (AP) — The American Frozen Food Institute, an industry group, said it will spend as much as $90 million over the next three years in a national ad campaign to boost slipping sales. Between 2009 and last year, U.S. sales of frozen meals are down 3 percent at $8.92 billion, according to Euromonitor International. And this year, the market researcher is forecasting a decline of an additional 2 percent.

The industry group represents companies including Nestle, which makes Hot Pock­ets and Lean Cuisine, and ConAgra, which makes Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s. The marketing effort has a slogan, “Frozen: How Fresh Stays Fresh,” that is intended to address negative misconceptions people have about frozen foods.

The push comes as frozen food sales have been hurt by a move toward food people feel are fresh or natural. Although frozen vegetables are often touted as being just as wholesome as their fresh counterparts, frozen meals and snacks are widely seen as being full of sodium and preservatives, or lacking in the taste department.

Kraig Naasz, president of the American Frozen Food Institute, said the campaign is a long-term strategy: “The primary purpose is to enter into a dialogue with consumers,” he said. One of its TV commercials states that “freezing is nature’s pause button.” It also asks viewers to take “fresh look at frozen.”

The campaign is also tapping dietitian and author Keri Glassman as a representative to talk about the benefits of frozen foods in public appearances.

In the meantime, frozen food makers have also been revamping their product lineups to better suit eating trends.

ConAgra, for instance, simplified the recipes for its Healthy Choice line to remove chemicals that people might find objectionable. Nestle’s Lean Cuisine also introduced an “Honestly Good” line that is touts its natural ingredients.

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