Frozen-food maker in black with retail

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A U.S. institutional frozen-food maker has come out of the red by offering its high-end dishes to retail stores and the military markets, the company says.

Cuisine Solutions of Alexandria, Va. — whose bread and butter had been hotel and airline meals — suffered big losses after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, bleeding $6 million in fiscal 2002.

So the company diversified, developing product lines for retail, military and, recently, restaurant customers, The Washington Post reports.

Profits skyrocketed 113 percent to $3.7 million in 2006.

'We have a cult following at Costco,' President Thomas Gregg says.

Retail now accounts for 41 percent of Cuisine Solutions business, with Costco alone making up 10 percent of volume. Upscale chains including Wegmans Food Markets and Balducci`s are also customers.

The military accounts for 20 percent of sales, banquets and convention centers, 16 percent, and restaurants, 4 percent.

Cuisine Solutions` meals are not frozen TV dinners. Rather, they are prepackaged meals such as smoked salmon with a chipotle remoulade sauce that come with side dishes. Customers turn them into meals.

The company`s chief marketing tool: Word of mouth.

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