State of the Industry / Portion Control / Gluten-free

State of the Industry on Frozen Baked Goods

June 12, 2014
Trans

Frozen baked goods manufacturers are helping grocers fill their in-store freezers with convenient meal and snack solutions for today’s busy consumers. Not only are these products quick and easy to make, but many are designed for on-the-go eating, made with healthier ingredients and come in single-serve sizes—all hot baking industry trends.

Frozen baked goods—breads, rolls, pastries, pizza crusts, pie shells—have always been about convenience for consumers. For years, home cooks have been able to reach into the freezer and remove as many frozen rolls as they need, to bake them shortly before dinner. Ready-to-bake pie crusts and fillings have allowed many hostesses to whip up a treat on short notice.

As peoples’ lives continue to get busier, checking their grocers’ frozen food cases for interesting products helps them make breakfast (frozen pancakes and waffles), snacks (frozen pretzels and cheese sticks), desserts (frozen pies and cakes) and other eating occasions quicker and easier. Consumers want frozen baked goods that offer the most in convenience and value. They also want products made with healthier ingredients, those that offer portion control and come in innovative flavors. These musts are especially true when it comes to frozen desserts, such as pies and cakes.

 

Flavorful frozen pies and cakes

“We’ve seen a lot of flavor trends arise,” says Jon Wiersum, vice president brand marketing, Schwan’s Consumer Brands Inc., Marshall, Minn., which offers the Mrs. Smith’s and Edwards dessert brands. “We are thrilled with the products we have to offer consumers now.”

This March, Edwards Desserts added New York-Style Cheesecake to its whole-pie lineup. The thaw-and-serve dessert is made with real cream cheese and baked in a graham cracker crust. “Where it is sold, Cheesecake is the fastest-selling Edwards dessert singles item, so it made perfect sense to add it to the premium whole-pie lineup,” Wiersum explains.

At the end of 2013, Schwan’s Consumer Brands’ added Mrs. Smith’s Original Flaky Crust to its line. Available in six flavors—Apple, Dutch Apple, Cherry, Peach, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato—the pie features a crust made with real butter and has zero trans-fat per serving.

“In support of the clean-label trend, Mrs. Smith’s has started incorporating real butter into its Original Flaky Crust pies,” explains Wiersum. “This new and improved formula doesn’t contain partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which equates to zero trans-fat. In addition, the fruit varieties do not contain high fructose corn syrup. Our research and development team has worked diligently to clean up the label, while improving the overall flavor and quality of the product.”

Edwards frozen dessert singles, meanwhile, address several other consumer trends. “There continues to be a trend in healthier eating, and we are aware that our desserts are a treat,” Wiersum says. “With average house sizes shrinking, and [the growing popularity of these products with] Baby Boomers, there is a strong consumer base that still wants to indulge a little, but doesn’t have the desire or need for a whole pie. Our Edwards Singles allow you to enjoy as much—or as little—pie as you want.”

Edwards Singles’ two-pack design allows consumers to enjoy or share a quick treat, while 11 flavors gives them plenty of choices. The company also offers Edwards one-pack frozen dessert slices in three flavors. Several of the flavors are the result of partnerships with other brands, such as Hershey’s, Reese’s and Nestle Butterfinger.

“Consumers still appreciate a sweet treat after a meal, but have a different mindset now than they did years ago,” says Matt Peno, assistant brand manager, Sara Lee Desserts, which is part of The Hillshire Brands Co., Chicago. “The trends right now are portion control and convenience. Consumers want to indulge themselves—with great taste being the main driver—but seek out desserts that are portioned. In addition to serving size, more than ever, consumers desire convenient, time-saving options to fit their busy lifestyles.”

With these trends in mind, Sara Lee Desserts recently launched Sara Lee Portioned for 2 Fruit Pies and Sara Lee Pound Cake Slices in Original and Double Chocolate flavors. Sara Lee Portioned for 2 Fruit Pies are pre-baked, 10-oz. pies that offer a smaller and quicker serving option, while keeping the same oven-fresh, homemade taste of other Sara Lee pies. Sara Lee Pound Cake Slices are single-serve and individually wrapped.

Launched last July, Sara Lee Angel Food Cake also enables consumers to satisfy their sweet tooth, while keeping calories in mind. The product has 130 calories per serving and offers a delicious, lower-calorie dessert option. “Just like our pound cake, this product adds breadth to the Sara Lee Desserts portfolio because of its versatility,” says Peno.

Mark Van Iwaarden, director of marketing for Legendary Baking, says the Denver-based company sees similar trends in frozen baked goods, a category to which it is new. “The biggest [trend] is single-serve or individual-serving desserts,” he says. “Consumers want convenience and choice in their dessert options, so single-serve makes a lot of sense across multiple categories. The other thing that single-serve does is allow people to try new and interesting flavors they may not get if having to share the dessert.”

Most of the Legendary Baking’s current products are sold under retail brands; it plans to launch a Legendary-branded frozen pie in the near future. The company recently won 54 awards in the Commercial division in the American Pie Council’s (APC) 20th Annual APC National Pie Championships—24 under its own brand and 30 under retailer brands, according to Van Iwaarden.

 

Convenient, healthier frozen breads and rolls

Despite the availability of many different types of bread mixes and automatic breadmakers, many consumers prefer to buy ready-to-bake bread and rolls for the same reasons they buy frozen cakes and pies: Convenience; healthier ingredients; and variety.

Consumers are increasingly conscious of labels and the ingredients in the foods they purchase, says Irena Castle, director of marketing, frozen category, T. Marzetti Co., Columbus, Ohio, which owns the Sister Schubert’s and New York Brand. The former makes rolls, baguettes, mini loaves and sweet rolls; the latter is known for its Texas Toast, knots, breadsticks, loaves and rolls.

“Most of New York Brand products contain no preservatives, trans-fats or high fructose corn syrup,” she continues. “Sister Schubert’s has long been a top-seller in the frozen bread category, and we are currently the number-one dinner roll brand.”

On April 1, the company introduced New York Brand Whole Grain Texas Toast and Soft Pull Aparts. The Whole Grain Texas Toast meets growing consumer demand for whole grain and improved nutrition, says Castle. The Soft Pull Aparts, which she says make a quick, easy appetizer or snack, bring “a unique concept and new product form” to the category with a product that is baked in an oven-safe bag, requires no cutting and produces no crumbs or mess.

Like New York Brand and Sister Schubert’s, Gonnella Frozen Products LLC, a division of Gonnella Baking Co., Chicago, also is mindful of consumer trends when developing and reformulating products. The company recently announced that all of its frozen dough items are now made with unbleached flour. The shift to wheat flour, it says, allows for a reduction in other additives, as well, and exemplifies Gonnella’s continued efforts to improve product formulations to stay abreast of industry and consumer trends.

“Consumers are not only more health-conscious than ever before, they are also more knowledgeable,” says Tom Marcucci, vice president of sales and marketing. “They read ingredient legends and are advocating for cleaner-label foods that have fewer additives.”

Marcucci explains that unbleached flour is a less processed alternative for baking and doesn’t contain additives to help achieve the bright white color generally associated with flour. Using it doesn’t alter the flavor, performance or quality of the bread and roll dough as prepared by Gonnella. The only difference customers may see when choosing items made with unbleached flour is a slightly off-white color in white bread. There will be no noticeable difference in wheat and rye breads.

 

Fast breakfasts, speedy snacks

Perhaps the two eating opportunities for which frozen baked goods are best-suited are breakfast and snacks. While breakfast reportedly is the most important meal of the day, most people don’t have time to make a sit-down breakfast for their families or themselves every day. Snacks, meanwhile, often serve as meal replacements or as something to stave off hunger between meals.

Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., recently introduced several new Eggo brand breakfast items that also can double as snacks. The Eggo Bites line comprises portable pouches of bite-sized, maple-flavored Waffles; cinnamon- and vanilla-flavored French Toast; and Chocolately Chips Pancakes. Each microwaveable pouch contains four to six pieces that require no syrup and are the perfect size for little hands. Eggo Thick & Fluffy Minis Chocolate Delight are mini waffles made with real cocoa. Like Eggo Bites, they’re microwaveable, don’t require syrup and are also sized for children’s hands.

Farm Rich, a brand of Rich Products Corp, St. Simons Island, Ga., recently added five frozen snacks to its lineup—three cheese stick varieties that can be eaten as is, as appetizers or as side dishes and more, and two desserts.

Buffalo Blue Breaded Cheese Sticks are made with real blue cheese and spicy buffalo wing sauce. Pretzel Crusted Cheddar Cheese Sticks combine real cheddar cheese with a crispy pretzel coating. Potato Stick Crusted Ranch Flavored Cheese Sticks bring together baked potatoes, hot melted cheese and ranch dressing.

Farm Rich’s first-ever desserts—Chocolate Cream Brownie Bites and Apple Cinnamon Pie Bites—serve as after-school snacks, small after-dinner desserts or bedtime snacks. One Chocolate Cream Brownie Bite has only 52.5 calories, while an Apple Cinnamon Pie Bite has 95 calories.

“Farm Rich is about convenient, wholesome and delicious foods that are easy to serve by busy families, so they can spend more quality time together,” says Shannon Gilreath, senior marketing manager in a press release. “We’re really excited to build off our cheese stick heritage with three fun new flavors and introduced our very first sweet snacks.”

Opportunities and challenges

Some manufacturers of frozen baked products may continue to face challenges in the coming year due, in part, to consumers’ perception of frozen foods in general.

“Consumers perceive frozen baked goods negatively,” says Castle. “Most feel that if [products] are frozen, they contain preservatives and are not as high-quality as fresh baked goods. In addition, many consumers don’t make it to the frozen section while shopping, so they don’t know everything offered in the frozen category.”

Wiersum finds that latter to be true, too. “Center-of-the-store departments continue to see fewer trips,” he says. “However, frozen pies could be considered a bright spot, as trips are up for our category.”

Perhaps that’s because consumers still enjoy an occasional treat. “Even with the trend of health and wellness, we are finding that there’s still a place for frozen desserts, as people want to indulge in something sweet,” Wiersum says.

Legendary Baking’s Van Iwaarden sees plenty of growth opportunities for frozen desserts as well as other frozen baked items. “I think the greatest opportunity for growth is in single-serve or individual-serving frozen desserts and other baked goods,” he says. “Convenience and flexibility are paramount in our busy lives, so the more products we can make that speak to those needs, the better. On top of that, I see opportunities with creative new flavors and combinations of flavors not traditionally seen in pie and desserts, such as combining chocolate with the spice of chili peppers.

“I see definite growth, as long as manufacturers are able to deliver products that capitalize on consumer macro trends like new flavors, smaller/portable products and enticing packaging.”

Peno offers a similar outlook for the frozen baked goods. “The category will continue to see smaller serving sizes and more convenient and time-saving options,” he says. “As taste preferences expand, more consumers are and will be seeking more dessert varieties and flavors, especially seasonal flavors.”

“Looking ahead, I get very excited,” sums up Wiersum. “I am confident in the category’s growth. We are getting people back into the frozen aisle by making great products and introducing more consumers to them through expanded distribution and increased marketing support. We are prioritizing the fundamentals of strengthening our brand.”

As consumers check out today’s frozen dessert options, they’ll likely want to take a closer look at all the interesting, new frozen bread, roll, snack and breakfast foods in adjacent freezers. They may even decide that their grocers’ frozen foods section is the place to chill out this summer. SF&WB

Frozen baked goods manufacturers are helping grocers fill their in-store freezers with convenient meal and snack solutions for today’s busy consumers. Not only are these products quick and easy to make, but many are designed for on-the-go eating, made with healthier ingredients and come in single-serve sizes—all hot baking industry trends.

Frozen baked goods—breads, rolls, pastries, pizza crusts, pie shells—have always been about convenience for consumers. For years, home cooks have been able to reach into the freezer and remove as many frozen rolls as they need, to bake them shortly before dinner. Ready-to-bake pie crusts and fillings have allowed many hostesses to whip up a treat on short notice.

As peoples’ lives continue to get busier, checking their grocers’ frozen food cases for interesting products helps them make breakfast (frozen pancakes and waffles), snacks (frozen pretzels and cheese sticks), desserts (frozen pies and cakes) and other eating occasions quicker and easier. Consumers want frozen baked goods that offer the most in convenience and value. They also want products made with healthier ingredients, those that offer portion control and come in innovative flavors. These musts are especially true when it comes to frozen desserts, such as pies and cakes.

 

Toast, knots, breadsticks, loaves and rolls

“Most of New York Brand products contain no preservatives, trans-fats or high fructose corn syrup,” she continues. “Sister Schubert’s has long been a top-seller in the frozen bread category, and we are currently the number-one dinner roll brand.”

On April 1, the company introduced New York Brand Whole Grain Texas Toast and Soft Pull Aparts. The Whole Grain Texas Toast meets growing consumer demand for whole grain and improved nutrition, says Castle. The Soft Pull Aparts, which she says make a quick, easy appetizer or snack, bring “a unique concept and new product form” to the category with a product that is baked in an oven-safe bag, requires no cutting and produces no crumbs or mess.

Like New York Brand and Sister Schubert’s, Gonnella Frozen Products LLC, a division of Gonnella Baking Co., Chicago, also is mindful of consumer trends when developing and reformulating products. The company recently announced that all of its frozen dough items are now made with unbleached flour. The shift to wheat flour, it says, allows for a reduction in other additives, as well, and exemplifies Gonnella’s continued efforts to improve product formulations to stay abreast of industry and consumer trends.

“Consumers are not only more health-conscious than ever before, they are also more knowledgeable,” says Tom Marcucci, vice president of sales and marketing. “They read ingredient legends and are advocating for cleaner-label foods that have fewer additives.”

Marcucci explains that unbleached flour is a less processed alternative for baking and doesn’t contain additives to help achieve the bright white color generally associated with flour. Using it doesn’t alter the flavor, performance or quality of the bread and roll dough as prepared by Gonnella. The only difference customers may see when choosing items made with unbleached flour is a slightly off-white color in white bread. There will be no noticeable difference in wheat and rye breads.

As consumers check out today’s frozen dessert options, they’ll likely want to take a closer look at all the interesting, new frozen bread, roll, snack and breakfast foods in adjacent freezers. They may even decide that their grocers’ frozen foods section is the place to chill out this summer. 

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