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Power Breakfast

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Consumers who “discovered” frozen pizza during the pandemic helped drive 20.6% growth since 2019.

While most categories come up short when compared against last year’s record sales, the frozen breakfast is still growing. During the 12 weeks ended April 18, sales edged up another 1.7% (versus the same period a year ago) to more than $1.03 billion across channels, thanks to gains in three of the four largest subcategories, reports Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). But compared with the same period in 2019, sales are up a whopping 27.9%.

‘Consumers spending more time at home are thinking about frozen breakfast foods outside the traditional breakfast daypart.’

“The frozen breakfast category, especially handhelds, has seen a surge of great new, innovative products launched into the marketplace over the past year,” says Michael Tierney, founder and CEO of Bethlehem, Pa.-based Mikey’s (eatmikeys.com). And for many consumers, they came at just the right time.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, consumers were doing a lot of scratch cooking,” explains Meghan Shook-man, senior director of innovation for Austin, Texas-based Vital Farms (vitalfarms.com). “But as the crisis wore on, they quickly tired of that,” creating demand for more convenient solutions.

BREAKFAST ALL DAY

Another key driver of frozen breakfast category growth is the breakfast-all-day trend that evolved out of QSRs. “Consumers spending more time at home are thinking about frozen breakfast foods outside the traditional breakfast daypart,” particularly at snack time, says Joe Beauprez, director of frozen breakfast marketing for Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg’s (kelloggs.com). To help meet demand for more snackable breakfast foods, the company just introduced Eggo Stuffed Pancake Bites in two flavors: Chocolate and Strawberry. The company also rolled out a new twist on its Eggo Minis, now infused with maple syrup flavor for an easy snack or mess-free breakfast on the go.

FROZEN BREAKFAST

Sales in supermarkets, drugstores, mass merchants, military commissaries and select club and dollar stores combined for the 12 weeks ended April 18, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). Percent change is versus the same period a year ago. Only subcategories and brands with at least $10 million in sales during the period are listed.

Springdale, Ark.-based Jimmy Dean (jimmydean.com), part of the Tyson portfolio, is also jumping on the bitesize breakfast/snack trend with its new “easy-to-eat” Breakfast Nuggets (Sausage, Egg & Cheese and Chicken Sausage, Egg & Cheese in a crispy, bread crumb coating). On the refrigerated side, meanwhile, the company recently debuted single-serve Loaded Sausage Bites and Omelet Minis that can also be eaten on the run any time of day. “They put a fun new twist on meals that were once made exclusively in a frying pan,” says a Jimmy Dean spokesperson.

‘Consumers love the breakfast quiches and casseroles they make on weekends, and we saw an opportunity to tie that excitement to…a snacking occasion.’

Vital Farms is also entering the refrigerated breakfast category. Despite their name, the company’s new Breakfast Bars are less “breakfasty” and more “snackable” than the sandwiches or burritos that have dominated the handheld space, says Shookman. And the fact that they’re refrigerated rather than frozen — actually, they’re the first savory refrigerated bars in the marketplace — taps into the fresh-is-best mindset (yes, we know that’s not always true, but consumers are a different story). Plus, they allow Vital Farms to leverage strong growth in the refrigerated breakfast category (+20.9% to $74.6 million during the 12 weeks ended April 18) and its own strong name recognition in the dairy set.

The bars fill a gap in the category for convenient comfort foods made with clean, high quality ingredients, says Shookman. “Consumers love the breakfast quiches and casseroles they make on weekends, and we saw an opportunity to tie that excitement to the increase in snacking occasions with a product they can also feel good about,” she explains. Made with ethically sourced eggs, humanely raised meats and clean, simple ingredients that consumers would find in their own pantries, the collection includes four varieties ready to eat in about a minute: keto-friendly Sausage & Cheddar, gluten-free Southwest Corn & Sweet Potato, plant-forward Broccoli & Cheddar and Bacon & Cheddar with Hash Browns.

BETTER-FOR-YOU OPTIONS ABOUND

Other manufacturers are jumping on the better-for-you bandwagon as well, especially makers of frozen breakfast products for devotees of various lifestyle diets. “As awareness around holistic health continues to grow, we think clean label and custom diet trends will continue to drive increased sales for the foreseeable future,” says Andy van Ark, vp of marketing at Franklin, Tenn.-based Red’s All Natural (redsallnatural.com). The company continues to grow distribution of its new keto-friendly Egg’Wiches, which feature Turkey Sausage or Chicken Apple Sausage between a pair of cage-free egg patties instead of English muffins, biscuits or tortillas.

General Mills builds on the popularity of its bacon flavor Pillsbury Toaster Scrambles with a new French Toast Bacon variety.

For the vegetarian or flexitarian consumer, Jimmy Dean recently added a new Plant-Based Patty, Spinach & Egg White Frittata Sandwich to its better-for-you Delights lineup. Meanwhile, Glendale, Calif.-based Alpha Foods (eatalphafoods.com) is rolling out an entire line of vegan-certified, non-GMO breakfast sandwiches and burritos featuring meatless proteins, dairy-free cheese and plant-based eggs. Sandwich varieties include Meatless Sausage, Plant Egg & Cheeze and Spicy Chorizo, Plant Egg & Cheeze; burrito flavors include Protein Supreme, Bac’n Scramble and Rockin’ Ranchero. Each contains 16 grams of protein — and no cholesterol — and is a good source of fiber and iron.

“There is such a huge lack of plant-based breakfast options,” says co-founder and CEO Cole Orobetz of the frozen set. “We knew we had to bring something delicious to the category.”

Mikey’s is also looking for a piece of the plant-based breakfast pie, says Tierney, citing the July launch of two gluten- and soy-free Breakfast Pockets made with plant-based eggs and Beyond Meat sausage. “In addition to clean-label and plant-based, gluten- and dairy-free products continue to rise in the frozen aisle as more consumers are removing wheat, grains and dairy from their diets.” He adds, “We want to offer products that everyone — regardless of dietary lifestyle or restrictions — can enjoy and feel good about.”

For consumers who prefer a naturally plant-based, organic frozen breakfast, Naperville, Ill.-based Path of Life (pathoflife.com) recently introduced Organic Steel Cut Oatmeal that goes from freezer to table in minutes. Made with IQF organic fruit, gluten-free steel cut oats and no added sugar, the product comes in both Apple Cinnamon and Berry flavors.

COMING SOON TO A FREEZER NEAR YOU

Despite the emphasis on better-for-you, several more mainstream brands are expanding their convenient offerings as well. For example, Jimmy Dean added two new just-add-eggs Skillets (Sausage and Meat Lovers) to its flagship lineup and one to its Delights collection (Turkey Sausage, Sweet Potato & Kale). Minneapolis-based General Mills is rolling out a new French Toast Bacon flavor of its Pillsbury Toaster Scrambles. And both Portland, Ore-based Brazi Bites (brazibites.com) and Baltimore-based Mason-Dixie Foods (masondixiebiscuits.com), known for Brazilian cheese bread and artisan biscuits, respectively, recently entered the category with clean label frozen breakfast sandwich lineups of their own.

‘We think clean label and custom diet trends will continue to drive increased sales for the foreseeable future.’

In the waffles segment, meanwhile, Kellogg’s satisfied its No. 1 customer request recently with the introduction of new packaging featuring resealable liners “to ensure our products stay fresher longer,” reports Beauprez. The company also added a Whole Grain variety to its Eggo Thick & Fluffy portfolio, which includes more sophisticated — and snackable — flavors for parents seeking a little “me time.”

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Julian’s Recipe (juiliansrecipe.com) is also targeting an older, more discerning consumer with a new Blueberry flavor of its Belgian Style Pastry Wafels. Made with real blueberries, pearl sugar and simple, wholesome ingredients, it’s expected to hit supermarkets this summer.

Denise Leathers

Denise Leathers

Denise is the editor of Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer.

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