The frozen breakfast category, anchored by waffles, pancakes and French toast, has produced its share of picks and pans over the past year, largely dominated by a handful of big-dollar items with little variation in sales.

State of the Industry: Bakery Report
Overview | Bread | Tortillas | Sweet Goods | Snack Cakes | Pizza | Desserts | Cookies | Buns & Rolls | Bars | Breakfast Products

But select products have shown solid performance, shining a spotlight on emerging directions for the segment.

Market data

Dollar sales of frozen waffles dropped 1.63 percent to $880.36 million for the 52 weeks ending April 17, per IRI, Chicago. Kellogg Co. and its Eggo brand continues to rule the category, but likewise saw a drop in sales, falling 2.43 percent to $643.65 million.

Two waffle companies emerged with strength over the sales period: Nature’s Path, which saw dollar sales grow by 46.00 percent to $8.06 million, and Julian’s Recipe, up 46.48 percent to $517,234. Nature’s Path organic waffles grew by 44.53 percent in dollar sales to $6.12 million, and its gluten-free organic Chia Plus waffles grew by 48.36 percent to $1.61 million.

Frozen pancakes and French toast fall within the frozen breakfast entrées category per IRI, and again, Kellogg Co. is a leader, sitting in the No. 2 spot, anchored by its Eggo French toast and pancake products. The breakfast entrées category was up 6.73 percent in dollar sales for the year to $614.79 million.

Kellogg Co.’s Eggo Minis saw decent growth for the year, up 11.53 percent to $23.33 million. Its Eggo Bites—miniature frozen pancakes—grew by 12.68 percent to $9.36 million.

Meanwhile, Aunt Jemima frozen pancakes, a brand owned by Pinnacle Foods, dropped 11.59 percent to $55.89 million.

De Wafelbakkers showed growth across frozen waffles and pancakes. The company was up 5.14 percent in dollar sales in frozen breakfast entrées to $60.92 million, and saw a bump of 0.16 percent in frozen waffles top $3.53 million.

Kellogg Co. recently expanded its Eggo brand with the addition of Eggo breakfast sandwiches, made with waffles as the carrier instead of bread—a riff on the successful McGriddles at McDonald’s, which use pancakes instead of bread, an item that is often part of the chain’s all-day breakfast menu. The approach makes sense, and the Eggo sandwiches saw sales increase by 130.60 percent in dollar sales to $39.15 million for the year.

Looking back

As evidenced by the market data from IRI, miniature versions of frozen pancakes and waffles are seeing growth, a trend we have noted across other bakery categories. Health-and-wellness and gluten-free also have driven sales over the past year.

More Belgian waffles have begun to hit the market, and Julian’s Recipe is the current leader for this style. The company offers flavored Belgian waffles, as well as Original and Whole Grain varieties.

Nature’s Path balances its product portfolio via a range of traditional and better-for-you products, including several gluten-free products like Buckwheat Wildberry and Chia Plus, with the latter featuring quinoa, amaranth. The Chia Plus product offers 12 grams of whole grains per serving and is an “excellent source” of ALA omega-3s.

On the foodservice side, all-day breakfast programs have opened a new growth channel at limited-service restaurants, tapped as one of 10 key themes for 2015, according to Technomic Inc., Chicago. The move by McDonald’s to offer all-day breakfast was perhaps the most prominent, but it was only one among many such strategic decisions by quick-service restaurants (QSRs).

Technomic’s Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report for 2016 shows significant sales growth for breakfast-oriented categories, with coffee café sales up 9.9 percent and bakery-café sales up 6.7 percent during 2015. Unit growth for those two menu types was up 6.2 percent for coffee cafés and 3.9 percent for bakery-cafés, reports Technomic.

The National Restaurant Association recently presented one of its 2016 FABI Awards to a unique style of frozen filled Belgian waffles from Prince Waffles. The waffles are filled with fruit, custard or Belgian chocolate. Savory options are also available, filled with Tomato & Mozzarella or Spinach & Ricotta. The company also offers Liège waffles, made sweeter via the inclusion of pearl sugar, which caramelizes during baking.

Observers of the breakfast category are not surprised that some of the best-sellers in frozen breakfast today work well as portable, on-the-go options. “People don’t have a lot of time, or don’t want to take a lot of time to enjoy breakfast,” says Luc Imberechts, owner, Bakon USA Food Equipment, Torrance, CA. “I’m from Europe, my wife grew up here, and we try to enjoy breakfast as a family. But I realize driving to the office that a lot of people are still eating breakfast in the car. If that’s the case, you need portability. That’s just a reality.”

The everyday reality of the rushed morning meal will pit retail products against those offered by foodservice, and particularly coffeehouses and cafés, led by Starbucks. “Everybody’s busy,” says Imberechts. “It’s kind of a rush in the morning for a lot of families. I wouldn’t be surprised that more people take breakfast than in the past. Breakfast items need to be easy to carry around and to eat while driving.”

Looking forward

Whether at retail or foodservice, producers of breakfast items are seeing the same consumer desire for healthfulness and freshness as during other parts of the day, Imberechts says. “That’s probably the No. 1 criteria for breakfast foods and food in general,” he says. “We see a need and request from consumers and customers to know about more about the freezing technology—how to freeze products so they will get to the consumer with the highest level of freshness.”

Kara Barnes, director of grower and industry programs, Barley Council of Canada, Calgary, Alberta, also sees consumers trying to find the best combination of quick and healthy breakfasts. She suggests adding barley to convenient, handheld breakfast items for extra fiber—and notable flavor. In pancakes, she suggests, barley provides a “nutty, malted flavor that people like.”

Breakfast items are particularly well suited to alignment with better-for-you product characteristics. “In terms of breakfast, we’re still seeing people who want something healthy that gives them energy for the day,” Barnes says. “Barley, oatmeal, whole grains, fruit of course, even a little bit of protein sometimes.”

Manufacturers of frozen breakfast items who can deliver on all of these counts, along with a strong sense of convenience, will likely find themselves in a strong position to build incremental growth. 

State of the Industry: Bakery Report
Overview | Bread | Tortillas | Sweet Goods | Snack Cakes | Pizza | Desserts | Cookies | Buns & Rolls | Bars | Breakfast Products