Top of the morning

Breakfast items are bringing new energy to the frozen foods aisle.

By Richard Turcsik

Thanks to an ever-grow­ing array of convenient, creative and better-for-you products, breakfast has become one of the champions of the frozen food aisle.

Frozen waffles, pancakes, sausages, orange juice and toaster pastries have been around for years, but now they are getting company from flavored pancakes, breakfast bowls, sausage rolls, breakfast pizzas, exotic fruit juice blends and scores of other innovative products that are not only bringing new users to the category, but also stirring a renewed interest in the mainstay offerings.

“Consumers continue to look for convenient, great-tasting breakfast options to make their morning routine a little easier,” says Andrea Borton, associate director, Eggo brand marketing at Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. To that end, Kellogg has introduced Eggo Real Fruit Pizzas, an all-in-one combination of fruit and warm toasted granola on an oven-baked cinnamon and maple-flavored crust. It is available in Strawberry Granola and Mixed Berry Granola. “We provide a warm, convenient breakfast option that only takes one minute to prepare,” she says.

“We’ve also just launched Kellogg’s Cinnabon Pancakes, building on the success of Kellogg’s Cinnabon Bars and Kellogg’s Cinnabon cereal,” Borton says. “This new product provides the taste of Cinnabon’s amazing cinnamon and brown sugar flavor with hints of creamy icing baked right in.”

Aunt Jemima is making breakfast a non-stop party with her new Aunt Jemima Frozen Confetti Pancakes—Aunt Jemima Homestyle Pancakes filled with colorful rainbow sprinkles. “We understand that you don’t always have the time to make your family a delicious, warm and wholesome breakfast, especially during the week,” says Andy Reichgut, vice president of marketing at Mountain Lakes, N.J.-based Pinnacle Foods, which produces Aunt Jemima’s line of frozen products.

Fast-food battle

Manufacturers are stepping up the rollout of new products in part to help retailers battle the onslaught from the fast-food industry, where McDonald’s is the king of breakfast and new players such as Subway are jumping onboard.

“There are many factors that impact the frozen breakfast category,” says Kenni Floyd, business development manager at CCF Brands, based in Rogers, Ark. “In general, the fast food patron is looking for quality breakfast items that they can eat on-the-go. The retailer’s goal should be to provide customers with the same quality and convenience they can receive at a fast-food restaurant. Perhaps they can merchandise breakfast components side-by-side with ideas and recipes for on-the-go breakfasts.”

Craig Lampright, vice president, sales at Old Orchard Brands, the Sparta, Mich.-based juice and frozen concentrate supplier, says he was impressed with the frozen end cap displays of frozen juice, waffles, frozen fruit and Cool Whip he recently saw while touring a store in Minneapolis.

“For retailers, a big miss as far as growing the frozen breakfast category is that displays of frozen pizza and ice cream are just about all you see anymore,” Lampright says. “The more creative displays really get the consumer thinking about buying four items off of that display instead of just one. We all understand that pizza and ice cream are huge, but I don’t think you are going to eat any more frozen pizza than you are currently eating,” he says. “There’s probably more brand switching going on than anything else just because there is always something on sale.

“We’re trying to convince the retailer to have a little bit more flexibility in the display space,” he adds. “Instead of just pizza, produce a theme with frozen juice and four or five different suppliers and create a little excitement.”

Frozen breakfast suppliers such as CFF are making excitement of their own with innovative products. Primarily a wholesale egg provider, CCF also manufactures the Great Day brand of Piggies In Pancakes on a Stick, Sausage Rolls and Buttermilk and Blue­berry Pan­cakes.

“There are a lot of pancakes on the market, but what really sets ours apart is the authentic griddle taste,” Floyd says. “When perfectly heated, our pancakes taste like they just might be from grandma’s kitchen.”

When it comes to pancakes in the supermarket channel, North Little Rock, Ark.-based De Wafelbakkers, LLC is a relatively new player. Yet the brand has been around for years, having been a mainstay in Walmart’s freezer case. “As we have expanded the business and increased capacity, we now felt like we were in a position to go into the traditional retail grocery market,” says president Dumas Garrett.

Through a combination of Walmart and traditional grocers, Garrett says De Wafelbakkers pancakes are sold in all 50 states. “We have really been focused the past year on building the retail side east of the Mississippi,” he says, adding the company also has a line of all-natural frozen pancakes and waffles sold in Whole Foods and Fresh Market.

De Wafelbakkers traditional buttermilk, maple, blueberry and buttermilk mini pancakes are sold in economical plastic bags. “We’re a new guy and we’re trying to be a little different,” Garrett says. “We’re doing some very localized marketing and we’re targeting specific markets.”

Targeting families

To appeal to famillies seeking a healthy way to start the day, Jimmy Dean has launched Jimmy D’s—a line of frozen breakfast items featuring low-fat turkey sausage as a key ingredient.

“This line is for moms, particularly those with tweens at home,” says Daryl Gormley, general manager, breakfast and snacking, at Sara Lee in Downers Grove, Ill. “We think mom is going to find this product a good choice because the products are all 210 calories or less and all three are an excellent source of protein.”

Jimmy D’s consists of French Toast Griddlers sandwiches, Griddle Sticks turkey sausage link wrapped in maple pancake batter, and French Toast Duos French toast sticks and turkey sausage links. “This is a convenient option that gives moms the chance to serve that balanced breakfast with protein that we really don’t think exists in the marketplace today,” Gormley says.

Testing shows Jimmy D’s also appeals to adults and can serve as a fulfilling snack at other times of the day, Gormley says. “We see with other parts of our breakfast portfolio that people substitute them for snacks or have a ‘breakfast dinner.’ That may be the case here.”

While sausage is an important component in many frozen breakfast entrées, industry executives note that plain frozen sausage continues to hold its own, despite of the growth of fresh sausage in the meat case.

“Frozen pre-cooked breakfast sausage offers consumers more convenient preparation,” says Chris Routh, director of sales for Banquet Brown n’ Serve at Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods. “It has less cooking time, can be microwaved or skillet prepared, with less mess and much longer product life compared to fresh sausage.

“Frozen pre-cooked breakfast sausage interacts highly with other frozen breakfast items, such as frozen waffles, frozen pancakes and frozen pastries,” Routh says. “Retailers should consider merchandising and shelving these segments together to increase cross-purchase opportunities. Frozen pre-cooked breakfast sausage is highly responsive to quality merchandising, including feature and/or display support. Merchandising is even more responsive during key major family holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.”

Jazzing up juice

Unlike sausage, experts say that frozen juice sales have declined much of the country as consumers switch to shelf-stable and fresh alternatives in the dairy case. Old Orchard, however, is looking to turn that tide by introducing innovative frozen products, Lampright says.

“We’ve come out with some pomegranate blends,” he says. “We’ve also partnered with Chiquita and come out with a line of fruit smoothies.”

In many markets Old Orchard has also stepped up to the plate and become a category captain. “It is about focus. When you focus on trying to sell something it’s amazing how you can succeed,” Lampright says. “We still actively pursue displays and advertising events where it makes sense with customers.”

Frozen concentrate offers several other advantages over its fresh and shelf-stable counterparts, Lampright notes. “On a cost per ounce basis, typically frozen does represent the best value,” he says. It is also environmentally friendlier, since it takes up less space on store shelves, weighs less than liquid juice and uses less plastic in its packaging.

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