Off To A Healthier Start

2/1/2011

New products that offer convenience, great taste and improved nutrition are giving consumers of frozen breakfast foods better choices than ever.

At a time when at-home eating for all dayparts is more popular than ever, harried consumers are increasingly taking advantage of the ease of preparation offered by frozen breakfast foods. The segment was up 1.2 percent overall for food stores with sales of $2 million and higher, excluding Walmart, for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 27, 2010, according to Nielsen figures, with most of that growth attributable to frozen or refrigerated meals, which increased an astonishing 8.2 percent during the time period.

Behind these positive numbers are manufacturers that have risen to the challenge of providing innovative products that meet consumer needs for convenience, tastiness and better nutrition — often combined in a single item.

Affirms Ami Krishan, associate director for MorningStar Farms, a brand of the Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co.: "Consumers purchase frozen breakfast foods because of convenience. They are also looking to make smarterfood choices as part of a healthy lifestyle, but they don't want to sacrifice taste. We strive to create the highest-quality foods that satisfy these needs."

In March 2011, the brand will launch two new frozen breakfast biscuit varieties: MorningStar Farms Veggie Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuits and MorningStar Farms Veggie Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits. Both of the items can be prepared in about a minute in the microwave and, according to MorningStar Farms, contain less fat than their meatless counterparts. The SRP for either item is $4.29.

"We are launching the breakfast biscuits because we saw a need for convenient, great-tasting breakfast biscuits for those who follow a vegetarian diet or want to reduce the amount of meat in their diet," explains Krishan. "Consumers are looking to make smarter food choices, and with MorningStar Farms, they don't have to sacrifice traditional breakfast favorites."

Noting the overall rise in sales of frozen breakfast products, Krishan attributes it to "brand awareness and innovation."

"Category consumption is being driven mostly by consumers' desire to start their day with more convenient and better-for-you breakfast options — either at home or on the go," seconds Reggie Moore, director, brand marketing at Jimmy Dean Convenience, a division of Downers Grove, Ill.-based Sara Lee. "We've seen the Jimmy Dean D-lights line of frozen breakfast items experience substantial growth. In 2007, Jimmy Dean introduced D-Lights as the first-ever better-for-you frozen breakfast sandwich, which answered an unmet need and has been warmly received by consumers. Now offered as both breakfast sandwiches and bowls, Jimmy Dean D-Lights are available in six varieties, offering consumers a sensible breakfast option that is less than 300 calories."

NFRA Readies National Campaign for March Frozen Food Month

The theme of the campaign the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association (NFRA) will roll out during March Frozen Food Month 2011 is "Bringing Families Together with Easy Home Meals," in an attempt to capitalize on consumers' shift toward preparing more meals at home by positioning frozen foods as the ideal meal solution.

Now in its 28th year, the promotion will launch with a three-page FSI, slated to be distributed on March 6 to more than 37 million homes, which will feature coupons and product shots of the 19 participating sponsors and highlight the promotion's theme. Additionally, consumers will be able enter a seven-day Family Caribbean Cruise Sweepstakes hosted on NFRA's consumer website, www.EasyHomeMeals.com, and the Harrisburg, Pa.-based association's national mascot, Mr. Food, will appear on TV to mark March Frozen Food Month in a series of regularly scheduled shows reaching more than 4 million viewers daily.

Promotion resources include an Idea Book of marketing tips, coordinating artwork and logos, and themed point-of-sale materials available to NFRA members to use as a way to encourage consumer participation in the monthlong event, which will be backed by print and radio ads, along with the Easy Home Meals Facebook page and the "Stay Cool" e-newsletter.

The association also urges companies to take part in the Golden Penguin Awards program recognizing promotional excellence during March. Winners will receive their awards at the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Convention in Orlando, Fla., scheduled for Oct. 22 through Oct. 25.

For more information on the promotion, visit www.NFRAweb.org/promotions or call NFRA at 717-657-8601.

A nonprofit trade association representing all segments of the frozen and refrigerated foods industry, NFRA is also the sponsor of June Dairy Month, the "June/July Ice Cream & Novelties" promotion and the "October Cool Food for Kids" educational outreach program.

This past year saw the launch of Jimmy D's, a line of hearty breakfast items containing turkey sausage, in three varieties: Griddle Sticks, French Toast Griddles, and French Toast Duos, all featuring 210 calories or under and 7 or more grams of protein. The family-oriented microwaveable items are ready to eat in less than two minutes.

The Jimmy D's line launch was accompanied by a national 360-degree marketing campaign, designed specifically to resonate with moms and encompassing TV, print, radio, online advertising, cinema, social media, event marketing, in-store activation, public relations and the launch of a microsite, www.jimmyds.com.

"For in-store activation, we did in-store demos, coupons and FSIs to drive trial, creative shelf talkers, rail strips and freezer clings," notes Moore. "Jimmy Dean also implemented a milk program where Jimmy D's creative appears on the sides of milk jugs, introducing consumers to the new product and driving them to the frozen aisle."

Since the launch of the line in August, Moore adds, the items have garnered "significantly positive feedback."

Future rollouts include extending the Jimmy D's line to feature Jimmy D's Pancake Griddlers, expected to arrive in stores in March, and the introduction of the D-lights Ham Bowl at retail this month. Pancake Griddlers, which are maple pancake breakfast sandwiches with seasoned Jimmy Dean turkey sausage, offer 230 calories, 9 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat per serving at an SRP of $4.99, while the Ham Bowl, which retails for a suggested $2.99, consists of lean ham, scrambled egg whites, potatoes and reduced-fat cheese, providing 220 calories, 21 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat per serving.

MorningStar Farms also takes its breakfast product marketing seriously. "Breakfast is an important strategic business for [us]," observes Krishan. "Historically, our breakfast portfolio has been supported with both in-store promotions and more traditional media vehicles such as print advertising. Recently, the digital world has become increasingly important due to consumers' seeking out information about better-for-you eating in this environment. Overall, we are very happy with the performance in our breakfast business."

One challenge for the brand, Krishan acknowledges, is to reach shoppers beyond those who never eat animal proteins. "Frozen meatless breakfast foods continue to become more and more mainstream," she says. "We are always looking for ways to expand our product line to fit the needs of both our vegetarian consumers and those who are looking to reduce the amount of meat in their diet."

Waffling Around

Sales of frozen waffles are down: According to the Nielsen data cited earlier, sales slid 5.9 percent for frozen waffles, pancakes and French toast. Perhaps as a way to nudge more customers to buy within the segment, a Morton Williams supermarket in an upscale area of Jersey City, N.J., near Progressive Grocer's offices, was offering a two-for-$4 "Manager's Special" on Aunt Jemima Waffles.

Still, many manufacturers of such products are operating under a mandate similar to that of other frozen breakfast providers — convenient, healthier items that also deliver on taste — and are consequently reaping rewards.

Frozens Provide Affordable Meal Solutions: Report

Beyond breakfast products, frozen foods as a whole have benefited from the tough economy: The category attained domestic retail sales of $56 billion in 2010, driven by consumer desires for quality meals at reasonable prices, according to "Frozen Foods in the U.S., 3rd Edition" from New York-based market research publisher Packaged Facts. From 2006 through 2010, sales increased 22 percent, or $10 billion, overall, for a compound annual growth rate of 5 percent.

"A lingering effect of the recession is that consumers are eating at home more," says Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts, which is a division of MarketResearch.com. "This trend has had a positive impact on the frozen foods market, as consumers turn to the freezer aisles to supplement more expensive fresh produce and meats. Additionally, microwaveable frozen products provide a quick and easy lunch at work for those looking to avoid pricey lunches out."

While the economy has squeezed the spending of the majority of U.S. consumers, food spending has been less affected by the recession, the report found. The effect of the downturn was to feed two opposing trends in consumer goods markets, including frozen foods: premiumization (upscaling) and cutting back (downsizing). Instead of cancelling each other out, the trends interacted as consumers tried to figure out how to get the biggest bang for their buck.

Aside from the economy, a major food industry macrotrend cited in the report is consumer demand for products that meet health, wellness and nutrition needs. This demand has spurred frozen food manufacturers to promote their items' healthy attributes, including reduced calorie counts, preparation methods such as steaming, or better-for-you ingredients.

As the economy recovers, look for frozen food sales to be bolstered by new product introductions, particularly of items that tout their health and convenience aspects. Packaged Facts forecasts that retail sales of frozen foods and beverages will hit $70 billion in 2015, a rise of 25 percent over 2010 revenues.

For more information, visit www.packagedfacts.com/ Frozen-Foods-Edition-2511637/.

"Products like our 8 Whole Grains, Lite, Gluten/Wheat Free and Organic waffles meet both criteria — they taste good and are good for you," asserts Sarah Meis, director of marketing at Vernon, Calif.-based Van's Natural Foods, which describes itself as "the market leader in gluten-free and allergy-friendly natural and organic frozen breakfast foods."

Despite a sluggish economy and the segment's overall decline, the company's product strategy has been successful, Meis maintains. "Van's has continued to see its market share and product distribution grow over the past year," she observes. "We attribute this success to a strong baseline of products, the introduction of new products, and a package redesign. Our 8 Whole Grains and Lite waffles have quickly caught on with consumers because they provide them with healthy, delicious options made from wholesome, natural ingredients. In 2010, we redesigned our packaging with an eye-catching, modern design and beautiful new photography. The new look enhanced our shelf appeal and positively impacted sales."

As though to bear out Meis' words, the Jersey City Morton Williams mentioned earlier features a full door of Van's products, in contrast to two doors of market-leading Eggo items.

Last month, Van's introduced Muffin Crowns and Waffle Sticks, two products positioned to compete in both the breakfast and snack segments. The Muffin Crowns, retailing for a suggested $5.49 and available in Triple Chocolate and Wild Blueberry varieties, contain 6 grams of fiber, 3 grams of protein and a maximum of 120 calories, while the Waffle Sticks, which retail for a suggested $3.29 and come in Chocolate and Vanilla flavors, are made with all-natural ingredients, including whole grains, and have 80 calories or fewer each.

Meanwhile, another frozen waffle manufacturer has experienced a setback unrelated to the economy or slipping sales. Kashi, another Kellogg Co. brand, recently informed fans on its website about its ongoing GOLEAN and Heart to Heart "waffle woes," which are now in short supply because of production problems. "We had hoped to be back up and running by early 2011," Kashi told consumers on the site. "However, we are continuing to experience difficulties in getting our recipes to bake just right on the new ovens. We will be discontinuing our Heart to Heart Waffles, but hope to have our GOLEAN waffles back on shelves sometime soon."

The brand also took the opportunity to let the public know about its new Kashi Waffles in two varieties: 7 Grain and Blueberry. A serving of either variety provides whole grains, fiber and up to 590 milligrams of ALA omega-3s from flax seeds and canola oil.

All of the manufacturers interviewed for this article share the belief the frozen breakfast food segment, driven by the ongoing consumer preoccupations of convenience and better health, and assisted by the further introduction of great-tasting products that fit these parameters, will only keep growing.

"It is likely that companies will continue to increase the number of better-for-you product offerings, as more and more consumers are looking to start their day with a more nutritious meal," says Jimmy Dean's Moore, who adds yet another important consideration to the mix. "As consumers continue to look for more at-home breakfast options, it will be imperative for companies to offer high-quality products at an affordable price."

More Ways to Start the Day

One-minute Eggs

Crystal Farms Scrambled Egg Patties enable busy consumers to enjoy a hot breakfast in no time. Ready to eat in only 60 seconds, the frozen fully cooked product — made from real eggs — contains 5 grams of protein per serving and is just the right size to serve on an English muffin or biscuit, according to Crystal Farms, which is part of Minnetonka, Minn.-based Michael Foods, the largest producer of egg products in North America. The SRP per 13.5-ounce resealable pouch of nine 1.5-ounce patties is $2.99. More information can be found at www.crystalfarms. com.

No Syrup Necessary

In common with Van's recently introduced Muffin Crowns and Waffle Sticks, Smucker's Snack'n Waffles can do double duty as a breakfast item or snack. Combining baked-in sweetness with a full serving of whole grains, the portable, microwave-able waffles eliminate the need for syrup, according to the Orrville, Ohio-based J.M. Smucker Co. The available flavors are Blueberry, Maple, Cinnamon and Chocolate Chip. A 4-pack retails for a suggested $2.99. For more information, visit www.snacknwaffles.com.

A Jones for Sausage

Jones Dairy Farm, a Fort Atkinson, Wis.-based producer of all-natural breakfast sausage, has introduced a redesigned package for its All Natural Sausage. The new design highlights the product benefits of "no MSG," "no gluten" and "no preservatives." Also, the Gluten-Free Certification Organization symbol and updated product photography have been added to the front packaging. The uncooked breakfast sausage product line includes Original Little Links and Patties, Maple Links, Light Links, Hearty Links, Roll Sausage and new Turkey Links. Suggested retail prices range from $2.99 to $4.99. For more information, call 800-563-1004 or visit www.jonesdairyfarm.com.

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