The Morning Meal Deal

By Lynn Petrak
Special Projects Editor
Heat-and-serve breakfast entre'es  dish it up for busy early risers.
When it comes to breakfast entrées, manufacturers look at the whole enchilada. Or at least the whole taco.
Breakfast entreés, which used to consist of glorified TV dinners with frozen pancakes and sausages, now run the gamut from ethnic-style dishes to gourmet egg casseroles that one might find on a restaurant menu. Heat-and-serve breakfast entreés include both frozen and refrigerated packages, as manufacturers scramble, to borrow a breakfast term, to satisfy lifestyle-driven consumer demands.
Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago, IL, reported refrigerated breakfast entrées racked up nearly $109.6 million in sales from July 2003 to July 2004, a 2.9-percent boost. Within the category, the Cincinnati, OH-based Jimmy Dean division of Sara Lee Corporation leads the pack, followed by Cordova, TN-based Rudy’s Farm, and Madison, TN-based Odom’s Tennessee Pride. Other major brands in the top 10 come from Bob Evans Farms, Columbus, OH, and one of its subsidiaries, Owens Country Sausage Co., Dallas, TX.
On the frozen side, growth has been slower, yet still outpaces the total for refrigerated entrées. IRI research shows that sales of frozen breakfast meals rose slightly, at 0.4 percent, to reach $420.4 million.
Owens Country Sausage president and chief operating officer Mike Townsley says manufacturers are scoring with entrées that appeal to busy yet discriminating consumers. “The category is one that continues to grow. The whole idea is that people sit down and have a more traditional breakfast on the weekend, but during the week and the school year, heat-and-serve entrées are popular,” he notes, adding that flavors have grown more diverse as palates have expanded.
To that end, Owens developed several ethnic-style breakfast entrées. So far this year, Owens expanded its Border Breakfast line with a new Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Taco and Chorizo, Egg & Cheese Taco. “We’ve seen all facets of the population with a growing interest in Hispanic and ethnic-style foods,” reports Townsley.
Los Angeles-based Ruiz Foods recently launched an El Monterey breakfast burrito and, borrowing from the popularity of Italian dishes, Bloomington, MN-based Scwhan’s Consumer Brands North America introduced a breakfast pizza under the Red Baron Classic Frozen Pizza label, featuring scrambled eggs, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, and either ham or bacon.
In addition, breakfast entrées aren’t just for the morning anymore. New Homestyle Sausage Swirls and Homestyle Sausage Wraps from Odom’s Tennessee Pride, for example, were designed for breakfast as well as other eating occasions throughout the day, according to company information. Likewise, Bob Evans Snackwiches® seem to have found a following for other dayparts, reports Scott Colwell, senior vice president of marketing. “What consumers are looking for — particularly what moms are looking for — are healthier snacks. Snackwiches work great both for breakfast and after school,” he points out.