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Handhelds and select better-for-you products are driving category growth, but boosting consumption among light and medium buyers could take it to the next level.

Although the frozen breakfast segment stumbled a bit during the 12 weeks ended Oct. 8, registering worse dollar (-0.7%) and unit (-6.3%) losses than the frozen department as a whole, handhelds (+14%), entrees (+11%) and waffles (+9%) all outperformed the department during the past year, according to the “How to Win in Frozen” playbook created by Alix Partners for the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI). Since 2019, category dollar sales are up 11% (versus 8% for the frozen department). And the growth shows no signs of slowing. In fact, the breakfast segment is expected to continue out- pacing the frozen department as a whole in the next three years (7.7% CAGR versus 4.4% for all frozen foods), reports AFFI. But that doesn’t mean it can’t do even better with a little help from retailers, starting with proper assortment.


Although ads for breakfast foods often feature families gathered around the table, Datassential reports that 61% of consumers eat breakfast alone — often on the go. So both single-serves and resealable multi-packs are in demand. During the past year, handheld breakfasts saw the biggest gains as a percentage of total sales (+14% year over year), according to “How to Win in Frozen.” So make sure you’ve got plenty of portable options for shoppers to choose from, including newer handheld breakfast formats such as taquitos, pizza-style snacks and biscuit roll-ups. (Format is the most important attribute consumers consider when choosing a frozen breakfast item, followed by brand, sweet
versus savory, portions per package, quality tier, method of preparation and vegetables versus protein type).

While portability is becoming increasingly important, better-for-you products are also gaining momentum. Low-carb/high-protein offerings and “enhanced” waffles from brands such as Kodiak Cakes and Annie’s are leading the way, according to AFFI. But even “mainstream” products are cleaning up their ingredient panels. For example, fast-growing Hungry Jack recently removed artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from its frozen pancakes and waffles. Does your assortment include better-for-you options for consumers along the entire health and wellness spectrum? And are you calling out key attributes with shelf tags or simple signage so they’re easy to find?

As in many other parts of the supermarket, private label outperformed the frozen breakfast category as a whole during the past year, growing its dollar share to 12.1%, according to AFFI. As a result, retailers should be sure to offer ample own brand alternatives, so shoppers hit hard by inflation can trade down rather than out of a preferred subcategory. That may mean smaller package sizes with lower price points or family-size value packs with lower costs per unit.


The heaviest frozen breakfast shoppers have less education but higher incomes, live in larger suburban households and range in age from 35 to 54, according to AFFI’s playbook. But the key to growing the category is increasing consumption among light and medium shoppers — who represent 91% of frozen breakfast consumers but only 64% of sales — by leveraging their preferences for certain products. For example, medium shoppers over- index on kids yogurt, frozen corn dogs, pizza bites/rolls, lunch packs and shelf-stable pasta dishes — all popular with children. So why not cross-merchandise those items with kid-friendly pancakes or waffles? Those same shop- pers might also be attracted by a frozen endcap filled with convenient frozen breakfast offerings for back-to-school.

Displays that pull together all the ingredients necessary to make, say, breakfast burritos are also a great way to grow category sales (bonus points if you offer them for one low price or buy-this-get-that-free). Industry observers also suggest retailers always, always, always tout the convenience of frozen since breakfast is the meal many consumers have the least amount of time to make.

Another way to boost frozen breakfast sales is to borrow a page from fast food’s playbook and promote breakfast all day — or breakfast for dinner. Or, take it a step further and place single-serve items in a case at the front of the store — with a microwave — so early morning shoppers can heat and eat.

FR Buyer

FR Buyer

Industry news straight from the Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer publication.

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