The Making of a New Product: LUVO Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

October 15, 2015

An interview with Christine Day, CEO of Luvo.

In case you missed it, LUVO Roasted Vegetable Lasagna Butternut Squash, Whole Wheat Noodles & Kale, was chosen by Phil Lempert as one of our Pick of the Week product reviews. We reached out to Christine Day, CEO of LUVO, to learn more about how they develop products. 

What inspired you to create your new product? Is there a particular niche or segment of the market you were focusing on? 

Luvo believes that the smart choice should be the easy one, and that consumers should never have to sacrifice convenience for taste.  That’s why Luvo is bringing fresh to the freezer aisle and building a movement, for better health, better taste and better lives.

We offer busy professionals and consumers who want to eat well, with a variety of meals that prioritize a full serving of fruits and vegetables, responsible levels of sodium and sugar, quality proteins, and whole grains.

With the introduction of our 2015 SKUs we aimed to expand our line of globally-inspired cuisines for consumers to enjoy. From the vibrant flavors of Asia and the sun-drenched shores of the Mediterranean, to homegrown favorites that you know and love our global entrees are inspired by delicious cuisines form around the world.

Our new Roasted Vegetable Lasagna was created for consumers looking for a classic Italian meal that they can feel great about eating. This new option is a favorite among both meat-eaters and vegetarian consumers.

What makes your product different and able to stand out against similar ones? How important has differentiation been in developing this product?

For Luvo, nutrition is key in everything we create. We’re committed to creating food that brings taste and nutrition together and that extends to our entire range of products. Similar brands tend to have nutritious offerings among their portfolio, but with Luvo, we work hard to create balanced meals that are based on the best nutrition principles—and that applies to every one of our products.

Other ways Luvo differentiates itself in the frozen food aisle include:

  • Focus on Nutrition: Each Luvo meal has less than 500 calories and 500 mg of sodium, and are responsible with added sugars. Every meal has at least one serving of fruits and vegetables, and emphasizes whole grains. There are no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners, and non-GMO corn, soy and oils. And, all of our convenient options cost less than the average price of a fast-food meal.
  • Steamazing technology: Luvo entrees are made with our patented steam technology. Food is flash frozen to retain quality and nutrition and then steam-cooked in a paper pouch. Our method of steaming is patented and the result is unmatched flavor, texture, taste and aroma – unlike anything you’ll find in the frozen aisle.
  • Unique plating: Meals slide right out of the paper pouch and plate just like a restaurant meal (and just like you see on the package!) This creates a complete dining and sensory experience that includes bold flavors, tempting aromas, and real visual appeal.

What was the process like of designing your package, and how do you feel the final result has impacted perceptions of your product? 

As a new brand looking to disrupt the frozen food category, we’re always learning and listening to what consumers are responding to. With that in mind, we recently conducted a re-design to our packaging. Our original goal was to create a beautiful farm-to-table aesthetic that plays up the food and ingredients. We took it a step further on our re-design to bring nutrition forward, using unique icons to call out what’s inside our meals. Think of it as beauty and brains—we’re the whole package!

Our focus was on creating a clear, beautiful package for our consumer that gives them straightforward, relatable claims on the nutrition of the meal, features beautiful real food photos and highlights the convenience of our meals by featuring our Steamazing pour shot. 

We believe our new packages resonate very well with consumers because we provide them with the nutritional information they look for, clearly on our package so no extra effort needs to go into researching the ingredients of our meals. And, there is no fine print or gimmicks involved. What you see is what you get!

For example, on our Roasted Vegetable Lasagna package you can find the following nutritional information presented in a clear and simple way on the front of the box:

  • Roasted vegetable Lasagna with butternut squash, whole wheat noodles & Kale
  • 1 cup of vegetables
  • 480 mg/20%DV of sodium
  • High in protein
  • Vegetarian
  • On the mild side
  • 250 calories 

Does your product have relevant health attributes? What are they?  

Yes, all of our products are designed with great nutrition in mind. We’re proud of the fact that every entrée offers a full serving of produce, and that we’ve capped sodium at 500 mg across the line. On top of that, we’re responsible with added sugars and we’re emphasizing whole grains. These are the qualities that set us apart. And, like many of our competitors, we’re also using antibiotic free meats and poultry and we offer vegetarian and gluten free products. = 

Luvo believes that when you eat better, you feel better and have more energy for wherever life’s adventures take you which is why we are intensely focused on every ingredient that goes into our meals. Good food and great taste changes everything.

Specifically, the Roasted Vegetable Lasagna health attributes include:

  • Calories: 250
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Sodium: 480 mg
  • 1 cup of vegetables (2 servings)
  • High in protein
  • 17 g of whole grains
  • Vegetarian

What sustainability efforts have you made with your product/packaging? 

As an organization, we’re looking to create not only a sustainable product but a sustainable business model. At every opportunity, we look for ways to reduce our environmental footprint and make our business more sustainable. That is why our packaging is engineered to make Luvo greener.

We also look to make strides in sustainability when sourcing our ingredients, which includes not always looking for the visually “perfect” vegetable, but rather vegetables at the peak of their freshness, to include in every meal.  Searching for “perfect” produce is difficult, and results in vast amounts of food waste. By focusing on fresh rather than perfection, we can vastly cut down on unneeded food waste. Luvo focuses on sustainability in other ways including:

Specific to product:

  • Non GMO soy, corn, and canola
  • Antibiotic free meats and poultry
  • Organic ingredients when possible (such as organic rice in our entrees and organic tortillas in our burritos)

Specific to our packaging:

  • 100% recycled paperboard with minimum 50% post-consumer waste
  • Pouch contains unbleached paper made from 20% pre-consumer waste
  • Printed with soy or waterless ink

Specific to our business:

  • We’re working with organizations providing food education to diminish food insecurity and improve health and wellness in local communities.
  • Supporting WhyHunger and their network of pioneering food banks. Since our partnership began, we’ve donated over 150,000 nourishing entrees to food banks in major US cities.
  • Luvo is proud to support Groceryships in their mission of improving long-term health and wellness in low-income communities by creating a network of educational support groups and enhancing access to healthy, unprocessed foods. So far, Luvo has donated more than 1,200 entrees to help support this mission.
  • In Partnership with Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation, Luvo has developed a nutrition-focused workshop and toolkit to train kids how to eat well. This program is reaching youth through the foundation’s after school programs.
  • Luvo supports Russell Wilson’s Passing Academy—football camps that help youth develop not only fundamental skills, but also help them develop high character and moral standards, respect for authority, a sense of competitiveness and fair play, and service to others. We’re proud to support this mission with nutrition education programs that fuel healthy bodies for optimal performance both on and off the field.

Through creating a new product, what would you say were the most difficult parts of the process and what came the easiest? 

Disrupting a CPG category is never easy, but Luvo is committed to making a change in the way we create, produce, eat, and think about frozen food.

The industry standard from most food manufacturers is a reliance on using excessive amounts of sodium, fat, and sugar when creating frozen meals. These are inexpensive ingredients that provide flavor. However, at Luvo we take the time, effort and cost to build flavor using herbs and spices, and create meals using premium ingredients such as: antibiotic free meats and poultry, nutritious veggies like kale, collards, and butternut squash, and trendy whole grains like millets and quinoa. 

We know that sparking a change comes with challenges, but we also recognize how important this change is to improving the health and lives of consumers across the country, at a time that we need it the most.  That’s why, in the end, it’s an easy decision to create meals with the freshest, nutritious ingredients that will help our customers feel great, in whatever adventure they choose. 

Anything you would change if you were starting from scratch again?

Since our initial launch, we’ve learned that Luvo’s target customer, the busy professional, is doing their discovery shopping in natural retailers - so that would have been another great place to debut first.  But now that we are in mainstream retailers, we see there is tremendous demand for our product. When we have a full door of products on the shelf, we’re the number two selling brand, beating legacy brands in the space.

In terms of the new Roasted Vegetable Lasagna entrée, we’re thrilled that so many consumers are fans of the new globally-inspired entrée. We look forward to creating new, high-quality meals that excite our customers with different flavors and tastes.

Besides your product, what's one out on the market that you admire?

Two products on the market that we admire are KIND bars and Siggi’s yogurts. Both brands share our belief on providing real food nutrition without any compromise on taste.