Busy lifestyles and affordability aren’t the only reasons why consumers add frozen baked goods to their shopping cart each week. Today’s grocery store refrigerator cases boast innovative, flavorful new rolls to jazz up meals; easy-to-prepare, warm goods that serve as snacks or meals; and sumptuous, ready-to-eat desserts for special family occasions…or a well-deserved treat. In fact, consumers have so many enticing new frozen baked products from which to choose today, they need a scorecard to keep track of all of their options.

Anyone responsible for regularly preparing their family’s meals knows how challenging it can be to bring foods to the table each day that are nutritious and flavorful, as well as appealing to everyone. Fortunately, Italian cuisine continues to be a favorite of diners young and old. Nothing beats a plateful of spaghetti topped with homemade tomato sauce and accompanied by a warm, garlicky roll.

New York Brand, a brand of T. Marzetti Co., Columbus, Ohio, enables meal preparers to add a fresh twist to this standard Italian fare, as well as other dishes and cuisines, with its new New York Brand Hand-Tied Garlic Knots, which are par-baked rolls loaded with savory garlic flavor. The rolls contain 0 g. trans-fat and are ready to eat after 4-5 minutes in a conventional or toaster oven. The knots can be paired with meals or eaten as a quick snack. They’re available at grocery stores and supercenters nationwide at a suggested retail price of $2.79 for a six-count package.

New York Brand Hand-Tied Garlic Knots may well be the frozen baked goods category’s 2012 “Rookie of the Year.” They were recently named Product of the Year USA’s 2012 Product of the Year in the Specialty Foods category. Product of the Year USA is a consumer-voted product award based on a U.S. shoppers survey conducted by custom research agency TNS. More than 50,000 American shoppers participated in the most recent survey.

Of course, nothing says Italian like pizza, and frozen brands and flavors abound. It’s hard to imagine that this quintessential Italian fare could be revamped to make it even more convenient and versatile, but that’s what DiGiorno, a brand of Glendale, Calif.-based Nestle USA, did. The company recently introduced DiGiorno Pizza Dipping Strips, a rectangular DiGiorno thick-crust pizza featuring 12 pull-apart strips and two dipping sauces (tasty marinara and creamy garlic).

The line comprises three varieties: DiGiorno Pepperoni Pizza Dipping Strips with pepperoni and 100% real cheese; DiGiorno Three Meat Pizza Dipping Strips with sausage, pepperoni and beef toppings; and DiGiorno Four Cheese Pizza Dipping Strips with mozzarella, parmesan, romano and asiago. Sizes range from 32.5 oz. to 34.2 oz., with six servings per package.

The dipping strips can make a quick meal for a few people or a snack for several. They currently are available at retailers nationwide for around $7 per package.

For those who prefer a soft, sweet snack, J&J Snack Foods’ SUPERPRETZEL Sweet Cinnamon Soft Pretzels are sure to be a hit. The Pennsauken, N.J.-based company recently added the new flavor to its SUPERPRETZEL line, which features Soft Pretzels, Pretzelfils, Softstix, Soft Pretzel Bites and Pretzeldogs.

SUPERPRETZEL Sweet Cinnamon Soft Pretzels are infused with bursts of cinnamon and come with a packet of cinnamon-sugar topping that consumers sprinkle on the pretzels themselves. Like Original SUPERPRETZEL Soft Pretzels, the cinnamon-flavored version doesn’t contain preservatives, trans-fats or cholesterol. Six-count packages can be found in the frozen snack section of grocery stores nationwide for a suggested retail price of less than $3.

Just desserts

Frozen baked goods manufacturers have not only launched new products that enable consumers to liven up their meals and between-meal noshing, they’ve also rolled out trophy-worthy pies suitable for an everyday dessert, a special occasion or a decadent treat.

“Crème pies are the second-largest segment in the sweet goods category and continue to drive growth,” says Kanika White, senior brand manager for Sara Lee Sweet Goods at Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sara Lee Corp. “In November 2011, we streamlined our crème pie portfolio to focus on the top-sellers, while also introducing two new on-trend flavors. As part of this launch, we enhanced the overall taste and appearance and addressed consumers’ needs by providing a convenient, homemade-tasting dessert made with real, quality ingredients.”

Joining Sara Lee Sweet Goods’ crème pies line are Turtle Crème Pie, which has a real cocoa cream filling, a chocolate cookie crust and whipped crème rosettes, and Banana Crème Pie, which has a creamy filling, a cookie crust and a fluffy whipped crème topping. Sold frozen, both 9-in. pies are ready to eat once thawed. They can be found at grocery stores nationwide carrying Sara Lee dessert products for around $4.99.

“Since launching last year, our Sara Lee Crème Pies continue to see growth as consumers are looking for fresh and light products with homemade taste that are relevant year-round,” says White. “We’re anticipating that this trend will continue throughout the next year as we continue to meet consumer preferences through innovation.”

Marie Callender’s Dessert Pies, a ConAgra Foods Inc. brand, Omaha, Neb., added a new flavor to its frozen cream pie line earlier this year that’s right in step with Mintel Menu Insights’ 2011 restaurant trends forecast. The London-based market research firm cited peanut butter as one of the top five up-and-coming pie flavors in restaurants.

Marie Callender’s Peanut Butter Cream Pie is made with real peanut butter, a chocolate cookie crumb crust and other quality ingredients. The 28-oz. pie serves six and costs $6-$6.50 at major grocery retailers nationwide.

Chicago-based Eli’s Cheesecake Co. introduced a 7-in. Irish Cream cheesecake in December for the holidays, including Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. The product features an Irish Cream whipped topping drizzled with chocolate. The 24-oz. cheesecake is available in stores for $12.99. A 10-in., 1- lb., 8-oz. Irish Cream cheesecake is available on the company’s website.

Consumers who like to create their own decadent desserts using recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation—but perhaps “tweaked” a bit to be healthier—will be able to update their grandmother’s award-winning pie even more with new, gluten-free pie shells. The ready-made, frozen shells will also enable home bakers to spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the fruits of their labor.

Crave Foods Inc. in Los Angeles, a maker of frozen gluten-free pies and pie shells, offers an 8-oz. Gluten Free Pie Shell that, according to President Riaz Surti, is made with garbanzo bean flour and doesn’t crack as easily as other gluten-free pie shells. The shell comes frozen two to a package at a suggested retail price of $4.99. It’s currently available in California and Arizona at Albertsons, Gelson’s Markets, Bristol Farms and Whole Foods Markets. In July, it will join Crave’s line of Gluten Free Pies in Wegmans stores on the East Coast.

Chester, N.J.-based Wholly Wholesome, which produces ready-to-eat and ready-to-bake all-natural frozen desserts, will be launching its first-ever gluten-free product this summer—a 9-in. Gluten Free Pie Shell. The product is also soy-free, nut-free, dairy-free, kosher, all-natural and vegan. Two-packs will be available at select all-natural and grocery stores around the country for a suggested retail price of $5.99-$6.99.

“Our new pie shells hold true to our belief that one should not have to sacrifice taste for ingredients,” said Doon Wintz, president. “We’ve been hungry to enter the gluten-free world for a long time, but we wanted to pace ourselves and ensure we had the right product with the right standards. We are thrilled to offer a quality gluten-free, ready-to-bake product to meet the needs of our gluten-free customers.”

So whether they’re looking for a quick, affordable meal, snack or treat, consumers will find just the right solution in their grocer’s refrigerator or freezer section.