Stouffer’s Attempts to ‘Fix Dinner’

Nestle is linking family dinnertime with healthy relationships in a new TV and Web push for its Stouffer’s brand.

Called the Stouffer’s “Let’s Fix Dinner” challenge, the effort—now in its second year—encourages parents to eat more Stouffer’s meals with their children. The move comes as consumers spend more time at home, and turn to frozen and shelf-stable meals in a tough economy.

TV spots, via the New York office of JWT, began running this month. One shows all the benefits of a family meal. “Can you give your daughter a better body image by setting the table? Could placemats help keep your kids off drugs? Are your kids more likely to talk when their mouths are full? What can more dinners together do for your family?” the voiceover in the ad asks.

U.S. consumption of frozen meals dropped slightly from 2008 to 2009 (12.7 to 12.2 percent), but the convenience-oriented staple still remains one of the top dishes consumed by Americans, per The NPD Group. According to the market research firm, consumption of frozen entrees in the U.S. increased by 14 percent from 1984 to 2009. Other foods that topped the list include pizza (22 percent), yogurt (18 percent) and, surprisingly, bottled water (16 percent).

As part of the ongoing campaign, Stouffer’s has partnered with the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University. The program’s premise is based on the insight that children who hail from families that routinely eat dinner together are “less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs.”

Last year, Nestle recruited mommy bloggers and introduced them to Stouffer’s-branded meals. This year, however, the packaged goods brand—a major player in the frozen foods category, alongside brands like Heinz’s Smart Ones and ConAgra Food’s Healthy Choice—has extended the campaign to include an online component where consumers can track the dinnertime routines of five families.

Nestle, which also makes Lean Cuisine, is encouraging consumers to get into their own routine via a daily log at “We are passionate about promoting the power of the dinner table to create short- and long-term benefits for families,” Stouffer’s marketing director Brett White said in a statement.

The company spent $71 million advertising its Stouffer’s products in 2008, and $59 million through the first 11 months of last year, excluding online, per the Nielsen Co.