Starbucks and Whole Foods are bringing healthy meals to the frozen food aisle with a new company called Luvo.
Luvo targets healthy eaters with meals under 300 calories featuring whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The food is also low in sugar and sodium and doesn’t include preservatives or artificial ingredients.
John Mitchell, the chef behind Whole Foods’ deli and packaged foods departments, designed Luvo’s meals, and the company’s CEO is Christine Day, formerly of Starbucks and more recently the chief executive of Lululemon.
Day is trying to market the food to the same active, health-minded community that she targeted as CEO of Lululemon.
“[Lululemon] was about leadership and getting people to move and reengaging them in [yoga and pilates] studios,” Day told Business Insider. “So the opportunity here, I believe, is to add kind of the trifecta from community and belonging and moving…to eating healthy.”
We’re skeptical that anything in the frozen food aisle can be both healthy and taste good, so Business Insider decided to give Luvo a try.
Here’s what we discovered.
First of all, we found the food is packaged differently than most frozen meals — it steams in a bag, and then you pour it out onto a plate, giving you the opportunity to “hack” it by adding lettuce, eggs, or more rice if you choose.
Up first: the vegetable bibimbap.
The general verdict here was that it was really spicy.
“Usually when something pre-prepared/frozen says it’s spicy, it’s not at all, or it just has a lot of black pepper,” one reviewer said. “Not so with that though!”
Another reviewer said, “It would be nice if they served bread with it because it all just tasted like a blob of spicy flavors; I had no idea what I was eating.”
A third said, “I thought the veggie bibimbap was surprisingly good, though it really tasted more like a spicy fried rice since it was steamed (and so was moist and less crisp than a bibimbap). Glad it had spice…though I would have liked just a tad more salt in it.”
Up next, the barbecue chicken with millet grits.
This was generally well-liked, particularly the buttery millet grits. The chicken, however, “did not taste like chicken,” according to one reviewer.
Another reviewer said that it tasted more like orange chicken than barbecue chicken.
Up next was the chili. This was a group favorite.
“It tasted natural, and the most authentic,” one reviewer said. “The smell and the taste stood out.”
“Just flat out good,” another said, while pointing out that the kale was a surprisingly pleasant addition.
People responded positively to the turkey lasagna, despite its unappealing appearance.
“[The] lasagna was liquidy, which was off-putting,” one reviewer said, noting that it “didn’t really look like lasagna. But it did taste good!”
And people felt lukewarm about the chili chicken verde.
But everyone despised the burrito. One person said it “tasted like dog food mush.” Another said it “just tasted like a giant chunk of wheat bread; the wrap was super wheaty, and the inside was just kind of a bean mush.”
The general consensus was that it was good for frozen healthy food — and an easy choice if you’re strapped for time and hungry. Most people were pleasantly surprised given the low bar set for frozen food.
“I was overall very pleased and surprised by the strength of the flavors, considering it was frozen food,” one person said. “Not bland or anything!”
You can expect to see more of Luvo in the future as its prepares to swiftly dominate the frozen food scene.
Even though the company is slightly small today, there’s tons of growth potential, according to Day.
Down the line, Luvo plans to continue expanding its offerings. Currently, the company’s products include breakfast, lunch, and dinner entrees, as well as some burritos. Luvo already provides snacks and small meals on select Delta flights.
But one thing you probably won’t see? Juices.
“I think it is so weird that people want to starve themselves and blend all their foods and not chew,” Vice President and registered dietitian Samantha Cassetty said to Business Insider. “I think you get so much satisfaction from eating all those things that go into juicer. It’s also going to be more nutritious if you don’t put it in the juicer — because the juicer is removing the fiber and typically leaving that behind.”