The Bottom Line:

  • Category is up in sales
  • Better-for-you options
  • Grab-and-go ideas

The breakfast category, including French toast, pancakes, waffles, breakfast sandwiches, and more, overall experienced growth from the past year, with some interesting new innovations released.

Market data

According to Circana (Chicago) data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on March 26, 2023, the “frozen breakfast food” category was up 12.1% from the past year, with total sales of $5.439 billion.

The majority share of the category was in “frozen breakfast handhelds,” which brought in $2.8 billion in sales, and experienced a 14.6% increase from 2022. Jimmy Dean led the group, with $1.6 billion in sales and an increase of 16.8%, and private label came in second, with $292 million in sales and a 13.5% increase. Pillsbury brought in $226 million with a 23.3% increase. Tina’s brand also brought in $31.2 million in sales but with a 53.6% increase.

Source: Circana OmniMarket™ Total Store View | Geography : Total US - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers) | Time : Latest 52 Weeks Ending 03-26-23

The frozen waffles category brought in $1.235 billion, with a 10.5% increase, and frozen breakfast entrees brought in $1.18 billion, with a 10.7% increase. Kellogg’s lead the waffles category, with $859 million in sales and an 8.6% increase, and private label brought in $155 million, increasing by 18.2%. Kodiak garnered $115.6 million, with a 26% increase, and Hungry Jack brought in $7.07 million but increased by an astounding $483.7%.

The frozen bagels category brought in $35.5 million in sales, with a slight decrease of 2.7%, and O’Doughs bagels brought in $6.65 million, with a 19.2% increase from the year before. Udi’s Gluten Free brought in $6.36 million, with a slight 7.6% decrease, and private label brought in $5.66 million, with a 123.8 increase. Also of note in The Greater Knead, which brought in $539,900 in sales but increased by 159,699.1%, and Bagelista, which brought in $372,160 in sales and increased by 1,481%.

The refrigerated bagels/English muffins combined category brought in $241 million in sales, increasing by 14.7%, and the refrigerated bagels category itself brought in $130 million of that, growing by 12.5%. Lenders brought in $91 million with an 18.7% increase, David’s Deli brought in $18.6 million and experienced a 6% increase, and 1st National Bagel brought in $7.3 million, but lost 13.3% in sales.

The refrigerated English muffins category brought in $110 million, with a 17.4% increase, and Bay’s brought in $106 million of that, with an 18.8% increase. Crystal Farms brought in $1.7 million, with a 19.7% increase, and private label brought in $1.4 million, but lost 39.3% of its revenue from the year before.

Looking back

“Consumers have always stocked up on frozen breakfast foods as a convenient meal and snack solution, and during the pandemic, even more so,” says Anouck Gotlib, CEO, Belgian Boys, Brooklyn, NY.

“Convenient options are still remaining top-of-mind for consumers. However, the breakfast category is long overdue for a shakeup—and Belgian Boys is doing just that,” she says.

Gotlib shares that Belgian Boys has been working with its retail partners over several years to build a new refrigerated breakfast destination in-store, but it has really come to life over the past year.

breakfast food

belgian boys packaged breakfast

Courtesy of Belgian Boys

“In addition, we’ve doubled down on streamlining the business in the face of so much uncertainty—

economic softness, continued supply chain troubles, a war with global implications—implementing a sizable SKU rationalization, shoring up business with existing and new manufacturing partners, bringing in new technologies to make ordering and warehousing more efficient, while at the same time moving a lot of our marketing spend to the mid-and bottom-funnel and focusing specifically on growing our repeat purchase rate,” Gotlib adds.

Aaron Robinson, director of brand management, Kodiak Cakes, Park City, UT, says that over the last year or so, the brand has seen more and more consumers return back to working in office—which means that mornings are as busy as ever.

kodiak cakes breakfast foods

Courtesy of Kodiak Cakes

“Because of this, consumers are opting for quick, convenient breakfast options that fit their on-the-go lifestyle. Another trend that has made big impacts on breakfast consumption is the heightened price consciousness of consumers,” he says.

“The economic pressures in the U.S. have cause consumers to reevaluate their shopping habits. Many non-essential items are seeing declines as consumers make tough decisions about what to keep in their budgets and what to cut. This is driving consumers to purchase breakfast staples in bulk packs and lean more on coupons to find additional price relief,” Robinson suggests.

On the other hand, Ayeshah Abuelhiga, founder, Mason Dixie Foods, Baltimore, says that comfort foods continue to drive innovation in the frozen food category.

“This is a trend we’ve seen grow since the beginning of the pandemic. With the rise in new comfort food products, we’re also seeing more better-for-you options with real ingredients join our products on-shelves. Shoppers are consuming more breakfast at home and overall driving frozen breakfast growth in the category. Frozen has seen a steady increase year-over-year compared to more volatile growth from cereal,” she explains.

Mason Dixie introduced six new items to its product line at Expo West in March, she says.

mason dixie waffles

Courtesy of Mason Dixie Foods

“Our clean-label Liege Waffles and Liege Waffle Sandwiches, which include Maple and Apple Cinnamon, are hitting shelves in June. We also have new Ready-to-Heat Buttermilk and Ready-to-Heat Cheddar biscuits that will be in stores later this year. All products are developed in-house, are scratch-made using real ingredients, and are free from nitrates and nitrites, artificial ingredients, additives, preservatives, colors, and flavors,” Abuelhiga shares.

Joe Beauprez, director, brand marketing and innovation, Eggo (Kellogg Company), Battle Creek, MI, says that Eggo is dedicated to helping parents “L’Eggo” of the morning madness and embrace the small wins.

“As parents are continuing to navigate the return to office environment, we’ve found they’re seeking more on-the-go, convenient breakfast options. We tapped into this need with last year’s launch of Eggo Grab & Go Liege-Style Waffles—our first-ever waffle that doesn’t require a toaster—to give parents a new way to enjoy the most important meal of the day while on-the-go,” he adds.

“This year, we built off the success we saw with our original Grab & Go waffle flavors—Strawberry and Buttery Maple—and introduced a new Vanilla Bean Eggo Grab & Go flavor to provide waffle lovers with even more options to fuel their morning commutes,” Beauprez expands.

“We’ve found that consumers want to enjoy waffles beyond breakfast, so we’ve adapted to this change by expanding outside of the traditional breakfast occasion through different collaborations—most recently Johnny Rockets for the launch of our own take on Chicken & Waffles earlier this year,” he comments.

Kelloggs Eggo

Courtesy of Kellogg Company

Jeveny Hammer, head of consumer insights for General Mills Foodservice, Minneapolis, says that with the return to pre-pandemic routines, she is seeing an uptick in the morning meal occasion that is actually outpacing other dayparts.

“As consumers are going back to the office, they’re frequenting the workplace cafeteria, returning to their favorite neighborhood diners, picking up breakfast and coffee at c-stores, and are generally eating more breakfast and morning snacks away from home,” she notes.

“Some of the latest research from Circana tells us that breakfast accounts for 74% of the morning meal occasion followed by morning snacks, which accounts for 20%. It’s also interesting to note that 40% of morning meals are consumed in the car, demonstrating a need for handheld solutions like breakfast sandwiches that can be eaten on-the-go. In addition, the most popular foods for morning meals are breakfast sandwiches and sweet bakery items like doughnuts and sweet rolls,” Hammer says.

muffins with jam

Pillbury Cinnamon Rolls

Courtesy of General Mills Foodservice

On the opposite spectrum, Dan Anglemyer, chief operating officer, Hometown Food Company, says that one of the trends he’s seeing from syndicated data is that 87% of breakfast meals are now being consumed at home—one way that people are conserving during these inflationary times while still seeking out solutions that offer value and convenience.

“The Martha White brand has been a staple for many families as we offer very affordable and convenient muffin and cornbread mixes that sell for just over $1 at retail. When it comes to quality, two-thirds of consumers surveyed by Datassential say nutrition is most important at breakfast. Consumers also have emphasized adding protein to their morning meals, which we have addressed with new product launches as a part of our new partnership with Premier Protein through De Wafelbakkers,” he says.

The new frozen pancakes have 15g of protein per serving and take a minute to cook in the microwave. For shoppers with families who are looking for fun products to encourage their kids to eat breakfast, the brand offer variations like Funfetti Frozen Pancakes and Funfetti Frozen Mini Pancakes, which have been performing well, Anglemyer notes.

Shayna Becker, marketing manager, General Mills Foodservice, says that the last two years have really compounded the need [for back-of-house labor] with the ongoing labor shortage, inflation, and growing demand for convenient offerings.  

“We are constantly reminding ourselves of the struggles our operators face every day and continue to seek ways to help them with convenient, easy-prep products that help make baking easier,” she comments.

Neil Pittman, U.S. sales director, St Pierre, Manchester, UK, says that despite financial challenges and a constantly changing consumer landscape, money will always be spent in the [breakfast] sector, and savvy retailers will look to engage shoppers through quality, consistency, and in-store experiences that garner loyalty.

birch benders micro pancakery mix

Courtesy of Hometown Food Company

“Previously, shoppers were elevating their meals at home because they couldn’t travel and specifically upgrading breakfast at home because so many of us suddenly had time to do so. Now that the cost of living is on the up, consumers are still looking to treat themselves well at home,” Pittman suggests.

“Retailers offering a trade up in one area of the grocery store can drive increased sales in other areas—and that’s why getting the offering right in bakery is paramount for retailers. For consumers, the trend for premiumization is here to stay—and that applies to every meal occasion,” he specifies.

Looking forward

Gotlib says that Belgian Boys has just re-launched its Original Crepes and Stroopwafels with enhanced ingredients, to be sure that the brand continues to deliver the highest quality products on the market.

Robinson shares that Kodiak has several product launches that will be hitting shelves this summer, including PEAK Oatmeal, with 20g of protein and 40% less sugar versus existing Kodiak oatmeal packets, available in Maple & Brown Sugar, Banana Nut, and Berries & Cream flavors. Other new products include Power Cakes Quick Mix, a buttermilk pancake mix now in a squeeze bottle, and Breakfast Bars, with 10g of protein.

The latest product innovations from General Mills Foodservice include Pillsbury Freezer-to-Oven Croissants, available in a new chocolate variation and in a butter flavor, which make it easy to bake consistently flaky croissants in less than 30 minutes, as they can go straight from the freezer to the oven with no thawing or proofing—allowing operators to bake fresh croissants with no advance planning, says Becker.

General Mills Foodservice also introduced Retail-Ready Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls, which are pre-packed with four, 3.5-ounce, pre-frosted cinnamon rolls, and Pillsbury Southern Style Biscuits.

In terms of acquisitions, Anglemyer says that he is excited about the newest company in the Hometown Food Company portfolio, Birch Benders, a pioneer in the health and wellness space and natural baking channel.

“We’re excited to further our commitment to the pancake and baking mix categories. The acquisition is complementary to our existing brand in the space, Arrowhead Mills, and reinforces our commitment to an industry position in the better-for-you category,” he notes.

“Overall, at Hometown Food Company, we’ve been leaning heavily into breakfast and specifically the frozen category this past year. With the acquisition of De Wafelbakkers in 2021, we’ve been able to invest heavily in the growing category and solidify our market share,” Anglemyer finishes. 

Trend-wise, Pittman says understanding what value means to shoppers is always key—but it is particularly important in the current climate.

“Bakery is a relatively low-value category and with consumers watching what they spend, they are more discerning. It doesn’t mean they’re spending less, they are just more aware of what they perceive as value. This offers opportunity for premium brands—particularly in bakery and breakfast. The difference between an extra dollar in-store is minimal, but the difference it makes to the quality of a shoppers’ meal is much more significant,” he explains.

“Charcuterie or ‘sharing boards’ is another trend on the up and not limited to certain meal occasions. As the trend has grown, along with meal occasions like brunch, the concept of sharing platters for breakfast is one that has been embraced by American shoppers. It’s fuss-free, looks and taste great, and offers an elevated at-home experience,” Pittman comments.

He suggests brioche as an easy way to upgrade meals. “Brioche is perfectly suited to cater to a range of emerging and established trends, and, as a result, is up $98 million in the last year—more than 20%. As a brand, St Pierre is leading the pack, with a 72% share of the branded brioche market within in-store bakery,” he shares.

“Last year saw the launch of St Pierre’s first-to-market Brioche Bagel product—another subsector of bakery showing growth in both value and volume in which St Pierre is innovating. Such growth in breakfast as a meal occasion has reinforced the need for retailers to work with reliable partners who can deliver on time and in full, to keep shoppers coming to store,” Pittman adds.


Hungry Jack’s refreshed packaging

Premier Protein, De Wafelbakkers frozen pancakes

Eggo “Stranger Things” Hawkins Homestyle Waffles

Discover More New Products at