Now that more people are working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s ample time for breakfast, and breakfast foods sales are reflecting this trend.


Market data

According to IRI (Chicago) data from the past 52 weeks, which ended on August 8, 2021, the breakfast foods category as a whole is up 11.6 percent, with sales of $4.5 billion.

The waffles category experienced a slight uptick, with an increase of 2.1 percent in sales, and total sales of $1.1 billion. Category leaders included Kellogg Co., including its Eggo brand, with total sales of $768.4 million. The main Eggo brand grew 4.7 percent to $594.3 million. Kodiak Cakes, with $70.0 million in sales, saw a great 51.9 percent increase from last year. Its Power Waffles brand had $57.0 million in sales and a 60.6 percent increase, while its Energy Waffles brand grew 22.5 percent to $13.5 million. Birch Benders continues to see growth, and is now a $13.6 million brand in frozen waffles.

The frozen breakfast entrées category, which includes frozen pancakes, brought in $978.7 million in sales, with a healthy 16.7 percent increase in sales. De Wafelbakkers, the leading frozen pancake company, saw $91.8 million in sales for the year.


Product and ingredient development

The waffle category is growing, notes Paul Baker, founder, St Pierre Bakery, Manchester, England. “Our own Brioche Waffles with butter are up 16 percent, and there’s still opportunity to drive distribution.”

Crêpes are a French classic, notes Baker, and are perfect for breakfast—including on the go. “Our authentic, lace-thin, French crêpes are a product we’re truly proud of,” he says.

“The crepes and other SKUs in the St Pierre Bakery range demonstrate all the things consumers love about our products in a convenient snacking format,” says Baker. “The impact of the pandemic has also given greater appeal to individually wrapped food that can be eaten on-the-go, and we have a range of quality products in market that can help retailers to cater to that trend.”

Dietary and overall consumer trends continue to shift the focus for new product development. “There are a few different trends that we are seeing right now that are influencing our upcoming innovation,” says Aaron Robinson, brand manager, Kodiak Cakes, Park City, UT. “One interesting trend is the importance of lower carb food options. While the keto diet appears to be starting to decline in popularity, limiting carbs will become the new normal for many people. Our Carb Conscious line of products are a great fit for those consumers,” he says.

“Another trend we have seen is a desire for indulgent flavors,” says Robinson. “Our more-indulgent flavors like S’mores, Cookie Butter, and Birthday Cake have been really successful. Birthday Cake is a flavor that our retail buyers are seeing grow like crazy across multiple categories, as well. The last trend we are paying close attention to is the shift back to working in the office and the growing need for convenient breakfast options. We are always looking for ways to deliver the goodness of whole grains and protein to consumers in a way that fits into their lifestyle.”

Henk Drakulich, division vice president and executive chef, La Brea Bakery Cafés, San Leandro, CA, says that they’ve seen an increase in healthy or just different variations on waffles and pancakes. “In past years there hasn’t been that much innovation in that arena, other than different flavors or fruit toppings. But, now we are seeing different grains being used in the batter itself. It still produces a delicious food, but perhaps brings a health benefit as well, including some innovative gluten-free options,” he notes.

“At our flagship La Brea Bakery Café, we recently started featuring a new sourdough pancake on our brunch menu that has started to develop a cult following,” says Drakulich. “We use the same sourdough starter that we use for our famous Country White loaves that we bake on site. Naturally, it helps with the leavening of the pancake, but it also adds a great distinctive tangy flavor normally associated with a buttermilk pancake.”

Protein is also important. Brook Carson, vice president research and development, Manildra Group USA, Leawood, KS, says that high protein has been hot in breakfast for a while and has shown no sign of slowing down. “Adding protein is an excellent way to level up current breakfast offerings. With wheat proteins you can boost the protein content with little impact to the texture or flavor profile of your product. Our GemPro Range of proteins covers the gamut of preferred texture and rheology to benefit breakfast foods ranging from bagels to pancakes. By optimizing your protein source, you can differentiate your high protein products with optimized flavor and texture attributes.”

But protein isn’t the only nutritional target, notes Carson. “Fiber provides benefits from prebiotic attributes to supporting low-carb claims. Using a combination of fiber and protein together can help reach nutritional targets.”

The breakfast category has evolved for the last year to consuming more breakfast at home, Carson notes. “Nevertheless, convenience remains important. New products have shown a blurring of traditional breakfast foods with more snack-like foods, product mashups, and on-the-go options. When developing snackable and handheld breakfast foods, wheat proteins can improve the rigidity and portability of many breakfast foods. Wheat proteins provide synergy with other proteins, supports the structure of baked items when considering fillings and inclusions, and is key to optimizing texture from chewy and firm to soft and tender,” she says. “A focus on wellbeing strengthens interest in plant-based, organic, non-GMO, and clean label ingredients. From organic vital wheat gluten to clean functionality, wheat proteins can provide all of these attributes.”

Carina Sarbaugh, senior director, retail and in-store bakery, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, says that in this turbulent environment where consumers and operators find themselves switching behavior at an accelerated rate due to the uncertainty that abounds, she is seeing many trends emerge or continue to develop. These include:

  • Operators looking to offset labor crunch

  • Operators and retailers are struggling to maintain labor and the desire for low-touch offerings that ease their burden has grown.

    • “We see this manifest in the shift from unbaked to fully baked products and in the growth of individually wrapped items that require no plating or prep from the operator/customer,” says Sarbaugh.

  • Wanderlust consumers seek variety and excitement: While many traditional flavors and have grown as consumers sought comfort in the early stages of the pandemic, the urge to avoid the mundanity of everyday on-going pandemic life has consumers now reaching for foods to fill that void.

    • “We see this manifest in the growth of internationally inspired flavors brought into American traditional food formats and in increased complexity in the combination of textures and flavors introduced to the marketplace,” Sarbaugh notes.

  • On-going preoccupation with external health concerns has consumers reaffirming their lifestyle choices: After a year of comfort foods and at-home baking, consumers are rediscovering or continuing their personal lifestyle and food choices to maintain their own version of health.

    • “We see this manifest in the growth of functional foods and categories, as well as the continued push for labels that are cleaner and ingredients that are holistically more ‘real’ and have a better reputation for personal and planet health,” Sarbaugh suggests.

Kelsey Courser, director of marketing, Birch Benders, Denver, agrees that she continues to see more and more consumers who are taking a more balanced approach to their lifestyles and well-being—but don’t want to give up on their favorite indulgences. “We launched our first advertising campaign to speak directly to this target group. The campaign introduces our new brand tagline, Bending the Ordinary, and highlights the fun that can be had from balanced eating. The campaign showcases the convenience, delicious taste and quality of Birch Benders’ products, which contains the highest quality ingredients that consumers can feel good about eating,” she says.

“We have also taken note of the increased demand for flavor innovation. Consumers are asking for new flavor profiles, unique ingredients, distinctive flavors, and eye-catching packaging designs, and we make sure we take these requests into account when developing our new products,” Courser adds. “Our recently launched Organic Confetti Pancake and Waffle Mix is a testament to this emerging trend with the most eye-catching celebratory packaging, flavors and ingredients after a year of missed celebrations. By simply adding water to the mix, the invisible confetti comes to life and creates a special moment from the very beginning of the cooking process.”

Arjan Stephens, general manager, Nature’s Path, Richmond, British Columbia, says that he sees a few emerging trends that support new product development. “The first is the trend towards functional ingredients: food containing ingredients that promote and enhance human health. Our Superfood line is a great example of this. Our Superfood granolas and two convenient, ready-to-eat oatmeal cups have higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and serve as viable options for consumers seeking ways to boost their nutrition and potentially support wellness goals like reduced stress, increased energy, improved immunity, and better sleep patterns,” he notes.

“Nature’s Path as a company has always been plant based, and it is wonderful to see the increasing trend towards plant based and vegan eating. Many of our products are also gluten-free and paleo-friendly, which many more people are searching for,” Stephens adds.

“Many people are now looking to reduce their sugar intake, so we have just launched our No Added Sugar line of granolas. And right now we are in the midst of launching another line reflective of current trends,” he finishes.


New products ahead

Courser said that in 2021, Birch Benders had some of its most exciting and well-received product launches to date, including an expansion into a completely new category for the company: baking.

“Our Baking Mixes & Frostings line launched in February 2021, allowing families to enjoy treats like cupcakes and brownies without the added sugar or empty carbs. In addition to our six baking mixes, the collection also includes two indulge-friendly frostings,” she says.

“In May 2021, we launched Birch Benders’ brand new Organic Confetti Pancake & Waffle Mix, which adds color and fun to breakfast! This mix is the perfect way to celebrate moments big and small,” Courser adds.

“Our Sweet Potato Pancake & Waffle Mix also launched in 2021. Starting the day with a delicious balanced breakfast is in our roots. That's why we added an extra boost of sweet potato, zucchini, carrots, and a touch of cinnamon to our just-add-water pancake and waffle mix.”

Robinson says that in honor of Kodiak’s 25th anniversary, the company is launching a delicious line-up of Birthday Cake flavored products in 2021, ranging from flapjack mix to protein balls and more. “While we can’t share too many specifics yet, we are really excited about our some of our upcoming innovation. One area we are looking to expand our presence in next year is the snacking set, with a couple of amazing new products coming in early 2022,” he reveals.

Stephens says 2021 has been a busy year for Nature’s Path. “We have launched so many new products! We have two new EnviroKidz waffles, Penguin Party (Cinnamon) and Polar Beary (Berry), with proceeds from both being donated to protect threatened african penguins and polar bears. And finally, as mentioned, our new No Added Sugar granolas and KETO line.”

Joe Beauprez, marketing director, Kellogg Frozen Breakfast, Battle Creek, MI, says Eggo Waffles celebrated National Waffle Day in August with an innovative partnership between Eggo and Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms—another Kellogg’s brand—to create a limited-edition vegetarian-friendly twist on the classic chicken and waffles dish. “The Chik’n and Waffles combo pack, which brings together Eggo’s delicious buttermilk waffles with Incogmeato Chick’n Tenders in one convenient package, helps vegetarians, flexitarians and waffle lovers everywhere celebrate National Waffle Day in a new way. Thousands of waffle lovers entered to win the limited time offer—so we know we tapped into rich territory with this partnership,” he says.

Beauprez also aligned a promotion for World Emoji Day in July 2021. “We introduced all-new Eggoji waffles, a fun twist on the classic Homestyle Eggo Waffles. With playful animated faces on each waffle, there’s no better way for parents to create small wins for their kids than by serving them—quite literally—smiles on a plate,” he expands.

“And earlier this year, we introduced Stuffed Pancake Bites, which come in two flavors—Chocolate or Strawberry with real fruit—and make the perfect after school snack or anytime treat. We also added Minnie to our popular Mickey & Minnie waffles and added Thick & Fluffy Whole Grain waffles to our lineup as well,” Beauprez says.

For 2022, Eggo will be focusing on resealable liners, notes Beauprez. “We are always innovating and thinking of new products and ways to bring parents and waffle lovers small wins all year long—there are exciting things in the pipeline for the next year,” he shares. “One innovation we’re thrilled about is the introduction of resealable liners, which will help our delicious waffles maintain freshness in the freezer. This is something consumers have been asking for, and we’re proud to be able to deliver on that ask.”