The co-op has worked with Golden West Food Group to come up with ‘premium, restaurant-quality’ frozen meals, which comprise three types of mac’n’cheese products and four frozen pizza flavors. The new range of meals will expand Tillamook’s retail reach into a new segment for the co-op, which otherwise markets fresh products such as cheese, butter, spreads, ice cream and sour cream.
Entry to the frozen meals market could prove to be a lucrative revenue stream for the co-op’s value-added offerings. US frozen food sales surged more than 50% in March 2020, according to data company IRI. Frozen pizza sales jumped 19% in 2020 and pasta – 17.6%. In comparison, ice cream sales grew by 15.2%, though the top-ranking category, seafood, jumped around 32% in 2020.
Category sales have been more moderate since then, but the growth trend has continued despite inflationary pressures affecting consumer sentiment. In 2021, sales rose 1% to $66bn, with dollar sales up 23% even if volumes dropped 3% on the year prior. In 2022, US frozen food sales climbed to $72bn according to the American Frozen Food Institute. Grand View Research said the US frozen pizza market was valued at $6.62bn in 2022 and was expected to grow at a CAGR of 6.9% from 2023 to 2030.
As it enters the market, Tillamook is counting on premiumization to appeal to consumers. “Consumers are at the center of all our decisions, and we know that they crave high quality dishes with more convenience,” said Stephanie Carson, Senior Director of Category Growth, Tillamook County Creamery Association. “Both our Mac & Cheese and Stone-Fired Pizzas are ideal for consumers looking to get an amazing meal with high quality ingredients, in a quick and easy way.
“While shoppers are bombarded with products to choose from when it comes to feeding their families, consumers return to Tillamook products again and again because we use only the highest quality ingredients and nothing artificial – and the new frozen meals are no exception.
“We wanted to bring consumers convenient ways to enjoy their favorite Tillamook cheeses in restaurant-quality meals that they could make in their own homes.”
The macaroni cheese range – which is now available from select Target and Walmart locations - has been inspired by the co-op’s mac’n’cheese it serves at its visitors center – and the frozen products range is based on the same recipe. “It has become a staple on our menu and folks travel from miles around to get a taste,” Carson told us, adding that the frozen meals are made with Tillamook aged medium and sharp cheddar cheeses ‘and the same toasty pretzel crumb and herb topping’.
Flavors include Classic Cheddar, Sharp Cheddar & Uncured Bacon, and Cheddar & Hatch Chile.
As for Tillamook Crispy Stone-Fired Pizza – which will go on sale in October – cheese is a crucial ingredient, as Carson explained. “Cheese selection can set apart great pizzas from mediocre ones. It was only natural to showcase the quality and flavor of Tillamook cheese in a dish where cheese really shines,” she told us.
Tillamook Crispy Stone-Fired Pizza is made with a trio of Tillamook cheeses, including medium yellow cheddar, whole-milk mozzarella and Monterey Jack. There will be four flavors: Cheesy Uncured Pepperoni, Three Cheese, Three Cheese Supreme, and Cheesy BBQ Chicken.
To bring the two product ranges to market, the co-op partnered with Golden West Food Group, with Tillamook executive chef Josh Archibald and the co-op’s R&D team members all working to develop the range.
Reflecting on the new launches, Carson said: “These new frozen products are part of our ongoing national expansion to bring Tillamook to more fans around the country. Today, 1 in 4 US households buy Tillamook. These new products will help us build our brand and continue growing our farmer-owned co-op. Ultimately, our growth translates into a win for who and what matters most – our farmer-owners, our employees, and our communities.”