Evol’s Truffle Parmesan Mac & Cheese is one of my all time favorite frozen meals. For just $3.69, you receive a bowl of truffly, cheesy goodness made with wholesome ingredients that you can feel good about eating. Evol, which is in fact “love” spelled backwards, has an admirable goal of disrupting the status quo by creating healthy, accessible microwave-ready meals. This pushes back on many other brands’ valuation of efficiency and profit over the wellbeing of consumers and the planet, which often leads to microwave meals full of synthetic ingredients, and environmentally harmful production processes. While packaged-food giant Conagra’s 2018 acquisition of Evol remains questionable, the corporation does seem to be improving, and the brand itself appears to have shown nothing short of complete commitment to their foundational goals and promises. I just hope that they continue to do so, while also pushing their social and environmental initiatives even further. For instance, I really hope they commit to sourcing their ingredients from organic farms, and that they shift to a non-plastic alternative for the bowls their meals are packaged in.
In accordance with Evol’s promise of providing goodness, this high quality frozen meal is made with only real, wholesome food. Evol points out that “most packaging in the frozen food section reads like the periodic table of elements,” foregrounding their idea that making meals with real food—ingredients sourced directly from U.S. farms—is the very least they can do. While this is excellent, most of Evol’s ingredients are unfortunately not organic. Given the significantly positive impacts of organic farming on people and the planet, this is definitely disappointing. However, they are committed to using only humanely raised antibiotic and hormone free chicken, beef, and pork for their non-vegetarian meals, and every egg they use is harvested from cage-free hens. Evol also refuses the use of any artificial colors or flavors. In addition, the company's website hosts a page solely dedicated to explaining more about the core ingredients that they use in many of their products, highlighting their transparency. Looking specifically at ingredients used in this mac and cheese meal, they explain that their cheddar cheese comes from hormone-free cows raised in the USA, is produced without animal rennet, and is free of all dyes and colorants. In addition, the truffles they use grow wild in the fertile woodlands of Italy, where they are sniffed out by trained dogs. On the virtual ingredient and nutrition label for this product, there are even links to direct information on the brand, their parent company, and sustainability.
Each bowl of Evol’s truffle mac and cheese contains a perfectly sized helping of tubetti pasta, covered in a creamy truffle parmesan cheddar cheese sauce and topped with panko breadcrumbs. After all of the necessary ingredients are harvested from U.S. farms and incorporated into delicious recipes, each meal is placed in a plastic bowl, boxed, and frozen. While this inevitably leads to a lot of plastic and cardboard waste, Evol notes that they are committed to “creat[ing] delicious food while taking care of the planet.” As a result, all boxes and plastic bowls are recyclable after consumer use, and the box contains sustainably sourced wood fibers, certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. There is also a “How2Recycle” graphic printed on the box for uncertain consumers, explaining what to do with each element of the packaging after use. In addition, Evol's parent company, Conagra, claims that they are "working hard to reduce the amount of packaging waste sent to landfills by supporting an initiative to keep difficult to recycle materials out of the landfill and to convert them into energy." With all of that said, however, I do hope they make an effort to move away from plastic packaging entirely, given the material's heavy reliance on the fossil fuel industry and the fact that recycling is often not a perfectly circular system due to issues with contamination, etc. In general, through the creation of wholesome frozen food, Evol seeks to shift perceptions in order to show that freezing and microwaving can be incredible tools if the food is made with the right amount of love. They hope to make frozen food cool again “by freezing fresh, simple ingredients in order for busy people to eat better, healthier food whenever they want.” This is important because it provides access to quick and healthy meal choices for people who may not have time to cook a whole healthy meal themselves.
In 2002, Evol was founded by Phil Anson in Boulder, Colorado, with a mission of inspiring people to care about where food comes from and how it is produced. As a University of Denver graduate, Phil began to hand-make and deliver burritos for his startup, Phil’s Fresh Food. As the business gradually grew bigger than he could handle, he made the move to frozen foods. In 2013, Evol was purchased by Boulder Brands for $48 million, which was then purchased by Pinnacle Foods for $975 million. In 2018, Pinnacle became a subsidiary of Conagra Brands, which is now considered the parent corporation of Evol. On the product information page for this meal on Evol's website, Conagra explains that "more than 82% of solid waste generated from our facilities is diverted to more beneficial use through recycling, donations to feed people, use as animal feed, energy generation or land application as a soil amendment and kept out of the landfill." In addition, Conagra’s website includes a comprehensive page on corporate social responsibility, outlining their commitment to environmental and social initiatives. This sounds fantastic, but a quick google search highlighted concerns with market violations, food safety, workplace safety and health, and labor practices. It seems as if they have taken an active interest in sustainability in recent years, but I am still wary of their size and power and seemingly bumpy track record.
Despite this, Evol has appeared to remain fully committed to maintaining their foundational quality and strict sourcing standards from U.S. farmers. Evol seeks to disrupt contemporary expectations of frozen food by showing love for people and the planet. Their primary goal is changing how we view frozen foods, seeking to overturn the status quo by becoming an industry leader through the preparation of meals made with thoughtfully sourced ingredients. They note, “Frozen food is forward thinking. And good is Evol.” Reading through Evol’s website is a very fun experience, as the information is deeply humorous, as well as transparent, accessible, and honest. Overall, Evol brings so much good to the table, but I would have really liked to see more information about sustainability and environmental efforts, and a set of comprehensive goals for the present and future. As previously mentioned, it is also disappointing that they do not source their ingredients from organic farms, and I think that they should try to make the switch as soon as possible. Beyond this, I remain wary of the company's corporate ownership, and hope that they continue to stick to their exciting foundational values and goal of productively disrupting the status quo, while also pushing their efforts even further, in order to help heal our broken food system.