Vacuum packs play a key role in delivering gourmet frozen meals from Grace's Kitchen Inc., an approach that is helping the Seattle-based firm gain freezer space in some of the fastest growing retail chains nationwide.

Gourmet meals made with all-natural portions that are individually vacuum sealed and frozen are commanding premium prices at upscale grocers and club stores. Source: Grace's Kitchen Inc.

Incorporated three years ago by CEO Jaap Langenberg and Hollyce Snyder, a former commissary manager for Whole Foods, Grace's has stitched together a national broker network in less than two years, selling ready-to-prepare, all-natural meals for two retailing for $13 to $16. In January, the firm cracked the club-store segment with the Ultimate Steakhouse Dinner, a $19.96 package assembled exclusively for 47 Costco stores in northern California. Two aged 8-oz. New York strip steaks in a Cryovac bag are packed with similarly vacuum-packed side dishes: asparagus spears, fire-roasted crimini mushrooms and red onions and other items. "Basically, consumers just have to do the cooking," says Langenberg.

Preparation time is under 30 minutes. "People ask if you can microwave everything," he laughs, but quick and thrifty isn't the meal's appeal. Young professionals, empty nesters and others who want a home cooked, restaurant style meal are the target, and vacuum packs in four-color, paperboard boxes deliver them. "There are no artificial colors or preservatives," adds Langenberg. "Proteins are sourced from approved suppliers. In most cases, this frozen food is better than fresh."

Super Target stores added the line in March.

For more information:
Jaap Langenberg, Grace's Kitchen, 510-295-9880,