The 2022 Dish of the Year is...

The Lempert Report
December 14, 2022

Phil: So, Sally, out of Japan, there's this annual event where they have the dish of the year. This is an award that's given out every year by the Gavi Research Institute. They run a popular website, which allows users to search for the top restaurants across Japan, and every year they create a dish of the year. What's the 2022 Dish of the Year? 

Sally: Drum roll. The 2022, dish of the year is frozen food. Phil, apparently the pandemic has really had an impact on Japanese shoppers and frozen foods have actually gone up 20%. And so what's happening is retailers are getting more into frozen prepared meals for people. And what I love about hearing about this is that the convenience stores are really getting into this too, which Japanese have always had really cool convenience stores. 

Phil: Yeah, they have. And there's one new one that is called at Frozen. It opened in August. They sell 1500 frozen food options in 420 square meters. That's about 4,000 square foot. There was a, there was a store in New York City a few years ago. I don't know, even though if it's still open, that only sold frozen foods. But to your point, I think what's really interesting about this, it's not your run-of-the-mill frozen foods that, that you would find in, in a Kroger or a Walmart. These are frozen foods that are frozen by restaurants and chefs to really bring up the whole high quality to a whole different level. And talking about that there's a new trend that's going on here in the US called thaw and eat foods. So these are frozen foods that all you do is you thaw them and you eat them. You don't have to microwave them. Why, why do we need this?

Sally: It seems like it requires some really advanced planning too. You know it conjures up memories of not thawing that Turkey out in time. You know, you've gotta start the day before. So yeah, I'm not sure about that trend, but it does seem like people are looking fordifferent options when it comes to food convenient foods, things that they can prepare quickly and that they don't have to go and buy a bunch of different ingredients for. 

Phil: So, you know, if we look at major companies getting into this thaw & eat food category, Nestle has actually coined a term called Smeals S M E A L S to refer to small meals that were catering to modern consumption habits. Smuckers has a new line of Uncrustables, that go well beyond that whole peanut butter thing. They're, they're filled with meat and cheese they're called. And also Nestle has a new brand out called Deli Witch, a line of soft crusted hot pockets that don't require heating. Um, craft Hines has a product called Launch Box. Echo now has echo waffles that are frozen, but you don't have to put 'em in your toaster. I'm not sure how, how difficult it is to put an echo in your toaster. Marie Calendars has frozen pies. Edwards has frozen pies. I guess what, what I'm curious about is whether or not, you know, this trend really is gonna change the way we eat. 

Phil: I mean, the reason that we microwave things or we put the echo waffles in the toasters to make them warm or hot because we like, you know, hot foods and, and so on. Now we're just getting these foods that are gonna be at room temperature. And I'm just wondering what the impact of that's gonna be. And also will there now be a new backlash towards microwaves? When microwave ovens first came out, a lot of people really didn't want to use them cuz they were afraid of those, the microwave energy, you know, zapping into their food and then into their bodies. So I'm just wondering whether or not, you know, we change our, our eating habits to go for non-war food and also whether the microwave manufacturers are gonna be in trouble. 

Sally: Yes. It will be interesting to see. And of course, Phil, I agree with you, like the wanting your food warm. I can't imagine thawing out a waffle and eating it. Yeah. You know, not warmed up 

Phil: Yeah, I agree with you.