The frozen meal industry is huge, with hundreds of types to choose from in every supermarket. The history of frozen food and the “TV dinner” is quite extensive. No one really knows who deserves the credit for coming up with the concept, but one company, Swanson, was the first to be successful with their frozen “Thanksgiving Dinner.” Clarence Birdseye deserves credit for developing the system for packing and “flash-freezing” food at its peak freshness. Swanson then used Birdseye’s system and combined it with the idea of compartmentalized meals and BOOM, the frozen entrée was born! One of the most popular frozen meals today is the always delicious, mac n’ cheese. We chose three brands to taste and below you can read our honest review with a brief history of each.
The first Stouffer’s restaurant named “Stouffer Lunch” was opened in Cleveland in 1924. Over time, the company continued to expand and the Stouffer’s restaurants served over 14 million meals a year while they began creating frozen entrées. Then in 1973, Stouffer’s was acquired by Nestlé and 8 years later, a new line of entrées called “Lean Cuisine” was released. By 1990 the Stouffer’s name was on 68 restaurants and 40 major resorts and hotels. However, in 1992 the businesses were all sold off to focus solely on frozen meals.
Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars
It was the consensus that Stouffer’s has the sharpest and cheesiest flavor of the three brands. The texture of the sauce is a bit gritty especially as the sauce cools, but the noodles were the softest. There is an adequate amount of sauce for the macaroni pasta. It isn’t as smooth as the others, but it is thicker and still very creamy.
Amy’s began in the small kitchen of Andy and Rachel Berliner’s when they were unable to find a premade organic, vegetarian meal that they liked. They began making pot pies to sell locally and at that time they had no idea how big the business would become. As things began to pick up, letters of thanks and requests for new recipes came pouring in. After much deliberation, it was decided that the company would be named after their daughter, Amy, born the same year. Business continued to boom and today, Amy’s continues to provide organic, vegetarian, non-GMO food that is handmade with the freshest ingredients. They offer hundreds of meal options including several for those with gluten and dairy dietary restrictions.
Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Amy’s definitely has the smoothest sauce, which floods the harder, chewier texture of the classic macaroni pasta. The sauce has a runnier consistency than the other two brands, but it adds a certain decadent creaminess. The flavor is milder than that of Stouffer’s, but it is still easy to pick out the sharpness of the cheese.
365 is Whole Food’s “Everyday Value Brand” known for being a great product and a high value for the price. The original Whole Foods Market was opened in 1980 with the goal of providing natural foods in the format of a supermarket. Since then the company has continued to grow and has acquired or merged with multiple companies. In 2016, they began opening their new store concept by the name of 365 by Whole Foods Market. This “smaller-store concept offers healthy, high-quality food at great prices.”
Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars
The 365 brand has the most unique flavor, though it wasn’t the cheesiest. It has more a of “spiced or peppery” taste and is much milder than the others. It also lacked in creaminess with a want for more sauce to go with the larger, shell-like pasta. The noodles have a good texture with not being too soft or chewy – somewhat in the middle of the Stouffer’s and Amy’s brands.