Breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day—while that fact might be debatable, there’s no denying that breakfast goods continue to be vital to bakery producers, thanks to discerning consumers with the morning munchies.

“Shoppers are demonstrating desire for trusted, high-quality brands,” says Jake Huber, director of U.S. Sales, St Pierre. “Whilst retailers are reviewing private label programs to inject brand personality and drive sales, it is authentic brands like St Pierre that are best-placed to help retailers meet that demand.”

Market Data

Subcategories under the breakfast goods column had mixed results for the 52-week period ending April 21, 2024, according to data from Circana (Chicago). Frozen breakfast items overall brought in $5.5 billion—not too shabby, but that figure represents a slight decline in dollar sales (0.8%) and a more notable decline in unit sales (5.1%). The handheld subcategory (sandwiches, wraps, and the like) leader was Jimmy Dean ($2.7 billion in dollar sales, a decline of 1.9% for the period). The biggest gainer among ranked companies was Conagra brand Sandwich Brothers of Wisconsin (up 33% to $38 million), and the company with the biggest percentage drop was Olm Foods-owned Day n Night Bites (down 20.7% to $13.7 million).

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Frozen waffles sales warmed up just a bit for the period, gaining 0.6% in dollar sales to hit $1.3 billion. Kelloggs/Kellanova topped the list of ranked companies with total sales of $838.1 million, a dip of 2.7% compared to the previous year. JM Smucker’s Hungry Jack frozen products, perhaps due to a brand refresh, enjoyed a whopping 130.4% sales jump, bringing the line to $18.3 million. Birch Benders sagged by 68.3% to hit $3.1 million for the time period.

Breakfast entrees, like the other subcategories, saw a modest dip in sales—it brought in $1.3 billion during the time period, down 1.1% compared to the period before. Jimmy Dean topped this subcategory, too, with its $578.4 million constituting a drop of 8.3% in dollar sales and a decline of 12.5% in unit sales. Kelloggs/Kellanova, though, had reason to celebrate—the company’s breakfast entrees had sales 20.1% higher than the previous period (hitting $97.5 million in sales) and a unit sales increase of 15.8% for the period. Less rosy were sales for General Mills’ Pillsbury breakfast entrees—the brand lost 19.5% of its sales from the previous period (dropping to $31.6 million) and saw unit sales decline by 21%.

Looking back

“Over the last several years we’ve seen a lot of businesses struggling with similar things including labor (hiring and retaining skilled labor), service, inflation, and low traffic,” observes Shayna Becker, marketing manager for commercial restaurants with General Mills Foodservice. “However, as we have emerged from the pandemic times, we are seeing traffic steadily increase and service improve which is promising. Labor will continue to be a challenge, so we focus our product innovations on labor-saving solutions to ease back-of-house constraints.”

About a year ago, General Mills Foodservice launched its Pillsbury Freezer-to-Oven Chocolate Croissants in various sizes. These croissants, Becker points out, are tailor-made for foodservice clients who (much like bakery operations) are facing labor shortages but still need to offer high-quality, flavorful baked goods.

“We introduced the freezer-to-oven croissants to help operations offer premium breakfast baked goods, whether it is during the morning hours or if they are serving customers who may be eating outside of the breakfast rush,” she explains “They can be made and served on an as-needed basis, whether there is a need for two or 200, with no advance planning. This has been a successful launch and we continue to see growth from this product line.”

Huber says in St Pierre’s case, at least, healthy sales can be chalked up to offering premium products that deliver a top-notch eating experience in baked breakfast goods.

chocolate croissant
Courtesy of General Mills

“There are many contributing factors that have aided our success, but our range of authentic, quality products catering to elevated breakfasts at home, has been a key driver,” he says. “The trend for pampering breakfasts and weekend brunches at home has not slowed post-pandemic and we’re seeing that reflected in our top-selling lines.”

For example, Huber shares, St Pierre has had success in the waffles category by offering a higher-end center-store product, rather than frozen, to give consumers ready-to-eat convenience and elevated breakfasting.

“Made from dough, rather than batter, and stocked ambient and ready-to-eat, our Brioche Waffles with Butter offer a unique solution for a decadent breakfast or snacking,” he says. “As a result, our Brioche Waffles with Butter are the number one ambient waffle in the U.S. and are showing phenomenal growth for the brand, quadrupling in value and volume in the past year and entering into our top five best-performing SKUs.

Looking Forward

While the breakfast goods category has had its ups and downs in recent years, producers are confident things will be bright in the near future. Huber says, “I’m always optimistic but as consumer confidence returns, I have more reason to be, particularly when it comes to in-store bakery (ISB).”

Additionally, Huber predicts producers who offer innovation and a premium experience are likely to find a higher degree of success.

“Shoppers trading up in ISB are more likely to then trade up in higher value accompaniments like meats and cheeses in the deli, and that’s appealing for retailers who are maximizing basket spend and simultaneously providing an enhanced experience for their customers,” he remarks. “St Pierre is delivering a quality experience that starts in-store and continues at home, and our plan for the rest of the year and beyond is to continue doing just that.”

Regarding new products, with St Pierre’s ambient waffles showing the ability to attract consumer dollars, Huber says they plan to launch new flavor extensions in the line.

“I’m optimistic about this space in the next year,” declares Becker. “The breakfast occasion is growing across channels.”