Post Big Gains
By Kathie Canning
Welcome to the ranch, where contestants in the refrigerated and frozen bakery sector have been engaging in an intense new product competition. This year, some of the contestants who scored the biggest losses stand to realize the biggest gains.
What, that doesn’t make sense to you?
Chuck Hemmingway, marketing director for the Sara Lee Food & Beverage unit of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sara Lee Corp., explains that ongoing and emerging trends in the frozen dessert category include smaller-sized packages for empty-nesters and other small households, as well as smaller portions for those who demand guilt-free indulgence.
So those companies losing size — in terms of package or portion — should be the winners in today’s consumer environment.
Also working in the segment’s favor is a post low-carb return to desserts and bread. But the outlook is mixed. As the bread industry learned a couple years ago, losing the carbs is a losing proposition when products lose their taste, as well.
While sales of refrigerated cookie and brownie dough continued their downward spiral, frozen pies enjoyed a turnaround in the past year, thanks partly to some portion downsizing.
New Sara Lee Simple Sweets Pies have jumped on the portion-control bandwagon to fit in with consumers’ growing appetite for convenience. The whole frozen pies are pre-sliced into “snack-sized” pieces and can be warmed up in the microwave in just five minutes. Available in Apple and Cherry varieties, they boast “high-end, high-quality” fruit, Hemmingway says.
Portion control also is a theme for the new Mrs. Smith’s Heavenly 100 line of desserts. The single-serve, 100-calorie frozen desserts give consumers a satisfying sweet treat, while making portion control easy and convenient, says Travis Bautz, vice president of marketing for bakery, Schwan’s Consumer Brands North America. The lineup includes Chocolate Mousse, Caramel Apple Crisp, Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting and four other varieties.
Other additions to the single-serve dessert category include Eli’s Apple Cinnamon Cheesecake, Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake and Caramel Nougat Cheesecake made with Snickers. Like their other single-serve counterparts from Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake World, the slices are merchandised in a clear plastic wedge-shaped container in the refrigerated bakery/deli and/or the retail freezercase.
Hemmingway also points to trends for nostalgic and seasonal favorites. Yet another Sara Lee launch — a chocolate cream pie with Andes Crème de Menthe candy — certainly ties into the nostalgia theme.
Grace’s Kitchen, Seattle, broadened its upscale line to include desserts in pre-portioned offerings that come four to a package. They include Triple Berry Crisp, Cranberry Cinnamon Upside Down Cake, Rhubarb Citrus Upside-Down Cake, and Pineapple Pepper Upside-Down Cake.
Infusing a health factor outside of portion control into the freezercase are new VitaTops Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Muffin Tops from Minneapolis-based Vitalicious Inc. Sold frozen in packs of four, the muffins incorporate Cargill’s cholesterol-reducing CoroWise plant sterols.
Trends within in-store bakery veer a bit away from downsizing and focus more on “upscale, high-quality” products, notes Kevin Schwab, vice president, in-store solutions, for the Sara Lee Foodservice unit. For contestants competing here, therefore, the most indulgent takes all.
New items — offered to retailers frozen — include upscale Sara Lee Brownie Bars in Ultimate, Bourbon Street Chocolate Pecan, and Seven Layers of Heaven selections; Fruit Bars in Lemon Lover’s and Classic Caramel varieties; and Cheesecake Bars in Strawberry Swirl and Marbled Chocolate Caramel varieties.
|Frozen Pies — Top 5 Brands |
(For 52 weeks ending March 25, 2007)
|Rank ||Brand ||Dollar Sales (in millions) ||% Change ||Dollar Share ||Dollar Share Change vs. Previous Year |
|2||Mrs Smith’s Traditional Recipe||$55.9||+353.8||16.3||+12.6|
|5||Mrs Smith’s Special Recipe||$24.6||+32.8||7.2||+1.6|
|Total, including brands not shown||$341.8||+3.3 ||100.0 || |
|Source: Information Resources, Inc.|
Total U.S. – Supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart)
In addition, Sara Lee Hi Pies and Flavor Fusion Pies now are being offered to in-store bakeries in an unbaked format. Hi Pies contain more than a full pound of fruit and come in Apple Cranberry and two other varieties, while Flavor Fusion Pies sport a flavor-infused crust and are available in Country Apple with Maple Crust and two other renditions.
Meanwhile, Harlan Bakeries of Avon, Ind., has added a Gourmet Key Lime Pie and a Gourmet Turtle Pie to its in-store bakery options. Both indulgence-focused products come in a 32-oz. size and contain 0 g. of trans fat per serving.
In-store bakery newcomer Rocky Mountain Pies — launched in January by employees of the former Western Country Pie company — has introduced a host of refrigerated Meringue and Cream pies, as well as baked and unbaked fruit pies.
On the bread side of frozen, IRI data show a sales gain of 3.6% for frozen fresh-baked bread, rolls and biscuits during the 52 weeks ending March 25, 2007 (excluding Wal-Mart).
Here, contestants need to chalk up both losses (trans fat) and gains (higher quality, artisan batch-style baking) in order to win, says Jack Acree, national sales manager for Alexia Foods.
The Long Island City, N.Y.-based company recently added a twin pack of its popular Alexia Garlic Baguette, which Acree describes as adding convenience for the customer while providing better shelf presence for the retailer.
Also new to freezercases is Pepperidge Farm Roasted Garlic Toast and Loaves from Norwalk, Conn.-based Pepperidge Farm. Meanwhile, Rhodes International, Salt Lake City, offers a nine-count package of Rhode’s Bake-N-Serve AnyTime Cinnamon Rolls that goes from freezer to table in 30 minutes.
Back at the ranch, at least one segment of the refrigerated category is not looking forward to a weigh-in. Although refrigerated bread, dough and bun dough posted strong growth (up 4.6%, for the 52 weeks ending March 25, 2007, excluding Wal-Mart, according to IRI data.), other bakery categories saw sales continue to decline.
“Refrigerated and frozen doughs are hard-pressed to compete with the convenience of in-store bakeries, and the increasing number of quick-serve restaurants featuring fresh-baked breads,” says the Mintel International Group in “Refrigerated and Frozen Dough—U.S.,” a February 2007 report. “Furthermore, for moms with kids who want to bake, it seems that many prefer the experience of combining ingredients that bakery mixes provide.” (Sales for such mixes are up, Mintel adds.)
Still, the category is doing all it can to avoid elimination from the competition, stepping up its R&D workouts and introducing a host of inspired new products.
Solon, Ohio-based Nestlé Prepared Foods Co. has reformulated its ready-to-bake Nestlé Toll House Oatmeal Raisin Cookies and Mini Brownie Bites, in 16.5-oz. and 16-oz. packages, to contain 0 g. of trans fat per serving. The company also has added a 40-oz. Family-Size Tub of Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie dough that yields more than 36 cookies.
Meanwhile, Minneapolis-based General Mills added Simply Bake Bars — in Turtle Supreme and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk — to its refrigerated Pillsbury sweet dough line. Each 12-oz. package yields 12 bars. Also new to the Pillsbury lineup is spreadable Brownie Batter packaged in tubes.
New to the bread dough category are Pillsbury Place ‘n Bake Crescent Rounds in an eight-count, 8-oz. tube, and Pillsbury Flaky Cinnamon Twists in an eight-count, 13-oz. tube.
Although results are mixed for contestants in freezer- and refrigerator cases, the battle for consumer spending dollars rages on. Who will be next year’s biggest winners and losers? SOI
Road to Rich’s
Dessert industry rivals Rich Products Corp., Buffalo, N.Y., and The Schwan Food Co., Marshall, Minn., formed a pie partnership in April that will allow Rich’s to offer — in addition to its own products — Schwan’s Mrs. Smith’s fruit, custard and crème pies in ready-to-bake and fully baked formats.
“We are excited by this agreement because it allows us to increase our overall pie business and provide an enhanced line of dessert solutions for our customers,” says Ray Burke, president of Rich Products In-Store Bakery Division.
“Pies are the second most purchased in-store bakery item behind special-occasion cakes,” adds Cal Brink, president of Schwan’s In-Store Bakery Division.
America’s Got Breakfast
A growing number of bakery options promise to brighten breakfast tables across the nation. Among the latest freezercase offerings here are:
Bob Evans Breakfast Breads — in Banana Nut with Walnuts and Cinnamon Walnut Coffee Cake varieties from Columbus-based Bob Evans Farms.
Van’s Hearty Oats Waffles from Vernon, Calif.-based Van’s International Foods. Available in Berry Boost, Maple Fusion and Oats ‘N Honey renditions, the waffles boast 5 g. of fiber and protein, and are billed as an excellent source of heart-healthy whole grains.
Downsized Murry’s French Toast Bites in Original and Cinnamon Blast flavors from Murry’s Inc. of Upper Marlboro, Md.
Eggo Minis Buttery Maple Syrup waffles and Eggo Stuffed French Toaster Sticks (in Maple Syrup and Strawberry) from the Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich.