Rise and Shine

By Lynn Petrak
Special Projects Editor
Breakfast sausage-makers aim to please their consumer audiences.
Breakfast sausage may be a mature category— even old cowpokes used to sizzle it up around the fire — but it is hardly stagnant. New product introductions and renewed enthusiasm for breakfast sausage among high-protein dieters have spurred interest and sales for this occasion-specific segment.
Karen Boillot, director of retail marketing for the National Pork Board (NPB), Des Moines, IA, cites breakfast sausage as a strong contributor to overall pork growth. “The whole sausage category is amazing and we’ve done a lot with breakfast sausage for retailers over the last couple of years,” she says, adding that she has been surprised by the positive response from retailers who choose to feature breakfast sausage. “The ads for breakfast sausage have gotten much more space.”
Sales are up
Recent market research shows that early risers have been busy at the frying pan and, increasingly, the microwave. Data from Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI) reveals the refrigerated breakfast sausage category tallied dollar sales of nearly $881 million from July 2003 to July 2004, a 4.4-percent increase, while the frozen sausage category, which includes several breakfast options, totaled nearly $221.5 million. Furthermore, a report on in-home pork consumption published by the National Pork Board indicates that 11 percent of consumers prepare breakfast sausage on a given two-week basis.
Within the category, a closer look at IRI tracking data reveals that traditional refrigerated breakfast sausage remains dominant, with venerable brands produced by the likes of Sara Lee Corporation’s Jimmy Dean division, Cincinnati, OH, and Bob Evans Farms, Columbus, OH, atop the sales rankings. After private-label sales, however, Jimmy Dean Fresh Taste. Fast!® pre-cooked breakfast sausage has moved up to the fourth top-selling mark, climbing in sales nearly 16 percent over the last year, the largest gainer in the segment.
Pre-cooked sausage also has been a boon for Bob Evans. Scott Colwell, senior vice president of marketing, pinpoints Bob Evans Express™ pre-cooked line introduced in February 2003 as the biggest growth engine. “That has shown double-digit growth over the last fifty-two weeks,” he reports, adding that price has not been an issue among time-saving consumers — an 8-ounce package features a suggested retail price of $2.49.
Demand is up
Appetites for low-carbohydrate products represent another consumer-driven trend generating little surprise among savvy food-label readers. “Tying into the low-carb trend, we’ve seen an overall increase in demand,” Colwell notes, adding that Bob Evans recently added a one gram total carb sticker on its fresh links and patties and promoted the products with a newspaper coupon. “We got the highest redemption rate we’ve had for that coupon,” he adds.
Jimmy Dean also added to its briskly selling heat-and-serve line recently with its fully cooked links and patties sold in a larger value-size package with a resealable closure. Patrick Cudahy Inc., Cudahy, WI, also joined the pre-cooked competition, with new packages of 7-ounce pre-cooked links and patties.