With some people shifting to working at home during the pandemic, waffles are no longer just for breakfast—they’re an anytime-of-day type of snack.
According to data from IRI, Chicago for the 52 weeks ending December 26, 2021, the frozen waffles category continued its course from last year, with flat sales at $1.1 billion.
The top performer in the category was Kellogg Co., with $777 million in sales, albeit a 3.3% dip from last year’s numbers. Private label waffles followed, with $131 million in sales and a 12.4% dip, and Baker Mills did exceptionally well, with $82 million in sales and a strong 54.7% uptick.
Kashi Co., bringing in $17.5 million in sales, showed promise as well, with a 51.8% increase in sales, and Kodiak Cakes, with $82 million in sales, experienced a 53.7% increase.
Others to note are the Birch Benders brand, with an explosive 112.7% increase in sales (and $14 million in sales overall), and Oakrun Farm Bakery, with 225.2% increase in sales and a $9 million overall intake.
Working from home
With more people working from home during the pandemic, waffles have become a favorite—and are now easier to access via their home freezers, versus packing and heating them up at the office.
“Eggo Waffles have been a breakfast go-to for decades and throughout the past few years of more and [with] more people working from home, we’ve seen Eggo Waffles continue to be a staple for many families—even beyond breakfast,” says Joe Beauprez, marketing director, Kellogg Frozen Breakfast, Battle Creek, MI.
Mike Mitchell, director of marketing, retail, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery, Oakbrook Terrace, IL, says that people working from home rapidly increased waffles sales in 2020, and for 2021 sales were relatively flat. However, when you look closer, there was growth in 2021.
“Mainstream frozen waffles declined and better-for-you grew tremendously. For better-for-you waffles, not only are the number of households up (+7%), the dollar sales per household are up (+16%) vs. a year ago,” says Mitchell, citing Nielsen data from the 52 weeks ending 11/27/21 and Nielsen Panel Latest 52 weeks 7/17/21. “People are still busy, some more than ever, and they’re seeking convenient meal solutions. But, along with convenience, consumers are seeking more wholesome food alternatives across dayparts,” he says.
Aaron Robinson, associate director of brand management, Kodiak Cakes, Park City, UT, mentions that frozen waffle sales have seen sustained growth since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Category sales are up about 1% in 2021. Recent performance has been even stronger, with sales up about 5% over Q4 2021,” he notes.
Source: IRI, Total U.S. - Multi Outlet w/ C-Store (Grocery, Drug, Mass Market, Convenience, Military and Select Club & Dollar Retailers), 52 Weeks Ending 12-26-21
“One interesting trend we’ve been seeing in the past year is that, with more people working from home, Eggo waffles aren’t just for breakfast anymore. Whether it’s getting creative with savory sandwiches, (which waffle lovers keep tagging us in on social media) or parents reaching for Thick & Fluffy Eggo waffles during their ‘me time,’ the waffle occasion is expanding beyond the breakfast table,” says Beauprez. “That’s a trend we’re excited for and are keeping in mind as we think about our innovations in the next year.”
Beauprez says that with so many people reaching for waffles beyond breakfast, Eggo is seeing the opportunity to innovate in more outside-the-box ways with clever partnerships, like last year’s limited edition Chik’n & Waffles combo pack partnership it hatched with Incogmeato by MorningStar Farms. “Waffle lovers should keep their eyes peeled for more exciting partnerships this year,” he mentions.
Mitchell says that he sees two top trends in frozen waffles. “The first is better-for-you and the second is usage. Within the better-for-you frozen waffle trend, protein-focused products are driving the most share growth and gluten-free is contributing as well in both traditional grocery and natural channels. For usage, consumers are excited about waffles and getting very creative. Influenced by restaurant menus and social media frozen waffle consumption continues to grow outside of the breakfast occasion."
"We’re seeing the Van’s waffle consumer expand usage across both sweet and savory as a meal, snack, or even an appetizer across the entire day,” he comments.
Robinson says that Kodiak Cakes’ consumer insights team did a bit of research on consumer habits in waffles and asked about changes since the pandemic began. “What we’re seeing is that frozen waffles are becoming more of a snacking, anytime treat versus just a breakfast option. Adults are now consuming waffles as mid-morning snacks, between Zoom meetings, or after a workout. Parents are feeding waffles to their children for more than just breakfast, but also as a lunch or snack. So, eating occasions for this category have grown.”
Robinson says that it’s been interesting to see where the growth in frozen waffles has come from. “We are seeing better-for-you brands driving the majority of the new dollars in the category. The major incumbents in the category are brands that don’t stand for much, outside of taste. Consumers are increasingly looking for healthier products with functional benefits, across all aisles of the store, so it made a lot of sense for Kodiak to enter this space and really deliver on what these new age consumers are looking for,” he shares.
“In a short period of time, Kodiak has been able to grow to the No. 2 brand in frozen waffle by delivering a protein packed product with 100% whole grains that tastes great. I think it’s important to note that great taste is still part of the equation. Most consumers are unwilling to sacrifice taste, and neither are we. Brands like Kodiak have brought incremental consumers to the category and are really succeeding,” Robinson adds. “Our frozen waffle business here at Kodiak has grown by more than 50% over the last year, and most of that is driven by baseline velocities. I think that speaks to the amazing product we have and consumer desire for BFY offerings in these mature categories.”
Mitchell says better-for-you frozen waffles are fundamental to Van’s values. “Van’s provides families wholesome, nutritious foods that taste good. We also believe that food should be fun so we pack a little extra awesome into everything we make. Many families desire gluten-free options for both health needs and lifestyle choices. Van’s takes great pride as the established leading brand in gluten-free frozen waffles that also deliver on other wholesome attributes such as non-GMO and free-from, cleaner-label attributes,” he notes.
Beauprez says that Kellogg is always on the lookout for new ways it can help meet consumers’ needs with its Eggo waffles and other breakfast items. “We know waffle lovers are looking for easy and convenient breakfast options that they can feel good about giving to their families, and Eggo’s lineup offers many different options that create the win/win that parents are looking for in the morning. Parents can feel good about serving their kids a nice, warm breakfast—made even better when topped with fresh fruit—and importantly, kids love eating them,” he comments.
New product innovations
One way Eggo addressed the better-for-you need in the last year is through its Thick & Fluffy Whole Grain waffles, which Eggo added to its lineup in 2021, notes Beauprez. “The Thick & Fluffy Whole Grain waffles feature 11 grams of whole grain per serving. We’re excited to provide waffle lovers with a range of options and flavors to meet all of their needs and look forward to introducing even more innovations in the coming year.”
Other new products hitting the category of late include:
- In January 2021 ALDI released new protein waffles, in Buttermilk & Vanilla flavor, which have 12 grams of protein
- In July 2021, EnviroKidz launched certified organic kids’ waffles, in Penguin Party flavor (Cinnamon) and Polar Beary (Pink Blueberry), vegan, gluten-free, and made without any artificial flavors or colors, and each serving contains 14 grams of whole grains and 5 grams of plant-based protein
- In July 2021, Eastern Standard Provisions Co. released its natural, preservative-free Liège Belgian Waffles, handcrafted to have a soft, brioche-like texture on the inside and layered with imported pearl sugar for a caramelized outer crunch
In November 2021, Pillsbury introduced a Belgian-Style Waffle Carrier, which is pre-sliced in a thaw-and-serve format
Mitchell says that in 2021, Van’s continued to drive awareness of its recently renovated plant-based protein waffle and plant-based protein pancake innovation, which were first to market. “Van’s prioritized plant-based protein because it aligns with the brand’s values which inspired the delivery of protein in a more wholesome way. Van’s plant-based protein waffle dollar sales were up 39% in 2021,” he says, citing Nielsen data for the 52 weeks ending 11/27/21.
Robinson says that Kodiak Cakes was able to grow over 50% in 2021 without launching any new products in the category. “While we didn’t launch any new frozen waffle products in 2021, we do have some exciting news coming up in 2022. We can’t share specifics just yet, but we are looking forward to growing this space even more with a new line of waffles that are specifically designed to serve a different consumer.”