But rising inflation and concerns around health are creating demand for better value and more plant-based options.
Although units were down 2.9%, dollar sales of frozen breakfast foods shot up 11.6% during the 12 weeks ended Aug. 7 to $1.14 billion, outperforming the frozen department as a whole in both measures, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI (iriworldwide.com). Manufacturers agree: The pandemic reignited the consumers’ love of breakfast. And as they head back to work, they are relying on frozen food to fuel their commute…even when it’s only from the kitchen to the home office.
CONSUMERS CRAVE VALUE, QUALITY, FAMILIARITY
“The pandemic moved many traditional office workers to a work-from-home or hybrid work situation, and because of this we’ve seen an increase in at-home breakfast consumption,” confirms CEO Anouck Gotlib of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Belgian Boys, citing a recent Numerator study that showed the percentage of consumers who reported eating breakfast at home on a typical workday jumped from 65% pre-pandemic to 71% today. “When you spread a 6 point gain across the entire U.S. population, it’s a significant increase in the size of the overall breakfast market.”
Despite steady growth, changing workplace expectations, supply chain issues and looming inflation mean consumers crave value, quality and familiarity, says Jon Amidei, COO of Swaggerty’s Farm, Kodak, Tenn. In response, the company added six new large handheld frozen breakfast sandwiches: Sausage & Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit; Sausage, Egg & Cheese Buttermilk Biscuit; Sausage & Cheese Croissant; Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant; Sausage, Egg & Cheese English Muffin; and Sausage Waffle.
“Consumers are looking for convenience and quality…from a brand they know and trust,” he says. “In addition to our fan-favorite snack-size sandwiches, our newer varieties are larger, offer more protein, and include our superior sausage, which customers have grown to love.”
Plant-based manufacturers are also looking for their piece of the growing frozen breakfast pie, and the timing couldn’t be better. The number of “plant-based intenders” is at an all-time high, reports chief growth officer Matt Williams of Paramount, Calif.-based Tattooed Chef, who says 70% of consumers are seeking plant-based options because they want to eat better.
‘FILLING A VOID IN BREAKFAST CATEGORY’
“We wanted to fill a void in the frozen breakfast category with diverse, innovative offerings, incorporating Mexican flavors and plant-based meats into beloved, traditional dishes,” he says, citing the company’s new plant-based breakfast burritos and breakfast bowls, which continue to trickle into stores.
“Tattooed Chef has been especially successful in this category because of our approach to ‘nostalgic innovation’ — taking something familiar and making it new, interesting, and plant based,” says Williams. “Our consumers are drawn to the familiarity and thrilled with the better-for-you ingredients and flavors, which elevate these traditional dishes.”
Another key player in the plant-based space, Chicago-based Conagra, owner of the Gardein brand, is focusing its effort on frozen plant-based breakfast meats. “We believe that those seeking plant-based alternatives shouldn’t be restricted to a limited menu, and the diversity of the Gardein lineup reflects that philosophy,” says Rich Campbell, senior brand manager.
“At the end of 2021, sales of plant-based pork totaled $164 million for the year, up 13% from the year prior. Over the same time period, sales of plant-based breakfast saus’ge were up 17%,” he reports. “With patties making up 77% of total breakfast sausage sales, we saw a prime opportunity to make an addition to our Gardein Ultimate Plant-Based Line.”
Introduced in June, “Our Original and Spicy Breakfast Saus’ge Patties look, cook, taste and satisfy like real sausage,” he says. “They have 13 grams of protein per serving and no soy ingredients.”
MANUFACTURERS HITTING THE SWEET SPOT
Although many consumers are looking for convenient better-for-you breakfast solutions, there is still plenty of demand for more indulgent treats.
“We have an incredible lineup of products designed to give consumers even more access to our iconic brands,” says Dave Mikita, president of global channels and licensing for Atlanta-based Focus Brands. “Most recently, we introduced three new Cinnabon Breakfast Creations at Kroger, including our Cinnabon Frosted ChocoSweet Swirls. These new products meet the demand we are seeing for snackable, on-the-go breakfast treats.”
Another new frozen breakfast item to watch for comes from Wynnewood, Pa.-based Patti’s Good Life (pattilabelle.com), which recently added Southern Buttermilk Mini Pancakes and a pair of Mini Pancake Sandwiches (Peanut Butter & Jam and Chocolate Hazelnut) to its lineup.
On the refrigerated side, Minneapolis-based General Mills is bringing back a fan favorite this fall: Pillsbury Grands! Pumpkin Spice Rolls. The ready-to-bake cinnamon roll dough with Cinnabon cinnamon and premade pumpkin spice icing is on shelves now, for a limited time only.
“Pumpkin spice products remain a fan favorite. And with consumers prioritizing family mealtimes and easy recipes on top of this trend, bringing back Pillsbury Grands! Pumpkin Spice Rolls was a no-brainer,” says Michelle Odland, vp and Pillsbury business unit director.
FROZEN OPTIONS DELIVER VALUE
Although neither manufacturers nor consumers can escape rising inflation, some brands have put together plans that benefit both. “Consumers have less buying power due to extreme inflation and are less likely to splurge on more expensive foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Williams. “That’s where frozen products can be beneficial: people are still able to get foods high in nutrients but for a much more affordable price.”
Joe Bybel, senior vp and general manager of the retail business unit at Dinuba, Calif.-based Ruiz Foods, maker of the El Monterey brand, says cash-strapped shoppers are purchasing more value products and/or shifting more of their food purchases to discount or value retailers.
“Our El Monterey breakfast burritos are well-positioned for both of these trends,” he says, adding that the Mexican segment of the handheld breakfast category is outpacing the category as a whole. However, “We saw how chicken was being embraced by consumers in the morning so we launched our El Monterey Signature Chipotle Chicken Breakfast burrito.” It debuted as a single-serve item only, but its success led to the addition of an 8-count multipack. “It’s a really unique item, and it offers the true variety that consumer trends — toward more spicy and ethnic flavors — indicate that retailers should be providing.”