Lean Cuisine is a line of low fat, low calorie frozen meals sold by the Stouffers division of Nestle´ foods in the U.S. Stouffers started their frozen food division in 1954. The Lean Cuisine brand was launched in 1981 as “Stouffers Lean Cuisine.” Although the Stouffers name still appears on the label in very small print, Lean Cuisine has managed to carve out a large share of the frozen meal market for itself.
The FDA considers the brand name “Lean Cuisine” to be a nutrient claim and requires the meals to meet its “lean” standards. This means that the meals may contain no more than 10g of fat, no more than 4.5g of saturated fat, and no more than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving. In addition to this Lean Cuisine meals are calorie controlled. Most meals fall within the range of 200 to 300 calories. Some are as high as 400 and some are as low as 140. Nutritional information is prominently displayed on the package, enabling the consumer to make informed decisions about their dietary habits. There is some controversy over the amount of sodium contained in Lean Cuisine meals. None of the meals exceed the recommendations of the FDA for sodium content, however.
Lean Cuisine offers six different lines of frozen meals. They offer 30 different “One Dish Favorites.” These include chicken chow mein, cheese ravioli, lasagna, and stuffed cabbage. In the “Cafe´ Classics” line they offer 28 meals. Some of these are chicken marsala, shrimp with angel hair pasta, and parmesan-crusted fish. The “Comfort Classics” line consists of 12 different versions of old-fashioned home-style meals. Examples would be beef pot roast and meat loaf with mashed potatoes. “Spa Cuisine Classics” is a line of 15 new-age style meals like ginger garlic stir-fry chicken and salmon with basil. There are 24 choices offered in the “Casual Eating” line, including mushroom pizza and chicken club panini. The 12 “Dinner Time Specials” make up the rest of the line with items such as Jumbo rigatoni with meatballs and steak tips dijon.
Lean cuisine has many competitors in the “healthy” frozen food business. Their products are distributed through virtually all major grocery retailers and discount clubs. Starting in 1987 they began listing the Weight Watchers “point” values on the boxes, enabling them to market their product more effectively to the dieting public. Although Lean Cuisine products can stand alone on their taste and nutritional value, dieters are a huge part of their market.
Lean Cuisine offers an email subscription service which distributes printable coupons on a regular basis. In addition, all of the big grocery chains distribute coupons and sales fliers featuring the products. Direct-mail distribution and insertion in local newspapers is another way coupons are distributed. Some of the online coupon services also handle printable coupons for the product. Combining coupons with weekly sales can frequently result in substantial savings.