When it comes to “healthy eating,” frozen foods doesn’t naturally spring to mind. Today, a new wave of start-ups is reinvigorating the category through modern branding and nutritious options that serve every type of dietary requirement.

This summer, Daily Harvest, a New York-based subscription service start-up offering frozen soup and smoothies received investments from A-listers Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams. “Farm-frozen produce is picked at its nutritional peak, retains more nutrients and its more readily available to everyone.” Paltrow said in a statement. “For this reason Daily Harvest really resonated with me and I am so excited to get behind a revolution in frozen with my investment.”

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Image courtesy of Daily Harvest

The company was founded by Rachel Drori in 2015 and started distributing nationwide last year. “Debunking misconceptions around frozen foods is essential to the Daily Harvest brand.” Drori tells JWT Intelligence. Working with a team of chefs and nutritionists, each Daily Harvest cup is packed with gluten-free and Paleo-friendly superfoods, and experimenting with different types of ingredients is keeping the company relevant to today’s health-conscious consumer. “We’re able to present unfamiliar ingredients, like camu camu or reishi mushrooms, in a pre-packaged, pre-portioned format that’s made to taste great,” Drori says.

A large part of the company’s success is down to packaging, photography, and social media. “[The Daily Harvest] packaging is simple, clean, and uncluttered, and that signals to customers that there’s something different about it,” says Drori. “Because we eat with our eyes, Instagram has been the most effective channel for us to convey our difference.”

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Daily Harvest blueberry and hemp smoothie
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Daily Harvest cauliflower and leek stew

Strong Roots is a Dublin-based company which just started distributing in the UK this year. The Irish brand was founded in 2015 and has seen approximately 1200% year-on-year growth. Creating products that appeal to today’s health-conscious consumers, like gluten-free and vegan-friendly options including kale and quinoa burgers and spinach bites, has set Strong Roots apart. “In a lot of places we are literally standing outside of ‘frozen,’” founder Sam Dennigan tells JWT Intelligence. “In some chains you can find us in ‘fresh,’ in the ‘health’ aisle and even in the ‘protein’ section as a meal accompaniment.”

The packaging design also makes Strong Roots stand out. “We are a design-led company,” says Dennigan, “so we start with the consumer and work back. Our packaging is no different. Uncomplicated, clear, minimal design that gets to the essence of the product.”

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Strong Roots product range
Salmon Mixed Root Veg 30 Xm WEB
Salmon and mixed root vegetable recipe by Strong Roots. Photography by Eugene Langan and food styling by Johan van der Merwe
Strong Roots Great BBQ Recipes for the súmmer Simple and tasty
Sweet potato with sesame honey recipe by Strong Roots. Photography by Eugene Langan and food styling by Johan van der Merwe

Danish frozen bakery Jalm&B launched last year producing organic breads, buns and cakes. The branding was designed by Danish consultancy Kontrapunkt and offers an elegant, minimalistic packaging to stand out from the frozen foods crowd.

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Jalm&B. Image credit Kontrapunkt
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Jalm&B. Image credit Kontrapunkt
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Jalm&B. Image credit Kontrapunkt

Big brands are seeing potential in frozen and turning to start-ups for leverage. In September, Danone invested in frozen organic baby food startup Yooji, which already distributes in 600 stores around France. The products are made of 100% natural ingredients without salt or additives. In the same month, Nestle acquired plant-based frozen food company Sweet Earth, giving the company immediate access to the plant-based food market, which it expects to reach $5 billion worldwide by 2020. Sweet Earth offers a wide range of global cuisine, including Korean japchae and Moroccan tagine.

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Sweet Earth Foods Artisan Bowl: Korean Japchae. Credit Nestlé USA
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Sweet Earth Foods Black Bean Mango Cubano Artisan Bowl. Credit Nestlé USA
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Sweet Earth Foods Get Cultured Burrito. Credit Nestlé USA

The global frozen food market is expected to reach $311.9 billion by 2021, with a steady growth rate at CAGR of more than 6%, according to a 2017 study by Technavio. In the US, frozen food purchases have increased by 26% this year, according to a recent study by marketing agency Acosta. As consumers continue to seek out natural and nutritious food, frozen food startups are putting wholesome, convenient and delicious meal options as worthy contenders.

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