Rise And Shine
Manufacturers of breakfast sausage and bacon aim for the convenience-oriented and flavor-seeking consumers.
Talk about a making fresh start in the morning. Producers of breakfast sausage and bacon are invigorating a venerable category with a slew of new products, packaging changes, value-added meals and marketing and promotion programs that show the appeal of such products at various points in the early part of the day and, in some cases, extending beyond it to other dayparts.
The expansion of breakfast sausage and bacon isn’t a new trend, with innovations dating back the better part of a decade. Although sales are still dominated by traditional products like fresh bulk sausage and links — which collectively experienced a sales boost in the past year — and traditional bacon strips — which expanded in foodservice but slipped a bit in retail tracking studies — there has been strong growth in products that cater to consumer demands for convenience and flavor.
Top 10 Refrigerated Breakfast Sausage/Ham Brands*
  Dollar Sales ($ millions) Dollar Sales % Change Prior Year Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) Unit Sales % Change Prior Year
1. Jimmy Dean 151.3 -9.0 17.7 51.6 -4.1
2. Bob Evans 114.3 -4.9 13.4 34.1 -1.3
3. Private Label 65.4 0.7 7.6 27.7 1.4
4. Johnsonville 63.8 -0.9 7.4 19.4 -3.1
5. Tennessee Pride 45.2 -0.7 5.3 16.4 4..5
6. Jimmy Dean Fresh Taste Fast 39.1 -7.0 4.6 12.1 -2.4
7. Farmer John 31.1 -6.9 3.6 22.7 -3.4
8. Owens 25.2 -6.8 2.9 9.1 -0.4
9. Hormel Little Sizzler 19.8 -10.1 2.3 14.0 -5.5
10. Taylor 17.9 2.0 2.1 7.4 3.3
Total Category 856.3 -4.4 100 323.5 -2.0
*Total U.S. -F/D/MX (supermarkets, drug stores, and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending July 16, 2006.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
For one thing, the precooked segment continues to sizzle, or more accurately, heat up quickly. “Fully cooked sausage patties and links are huge for us,” reports Jim Stonehocker, chief operating officer for Odom’s Tennessee Pride, Madison, Tenn., which recently added new fully cooked Biscuit Size patties for larger biscuits.
In fact, several new fully cooked sausage products have hit the marketplace over the past year. The Oscar Mayer brand from Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods, for instance, added new Ready to Serve pork sausage links to its roster of fully cooked offerings. Greeley, Colo.-based Swift & Co. debuted Swift Premium Sizzle ‘N Serve fully cooked breakfast meats, including pork links and patties in Original and Country flavors.
Precooked bacon sales are also up, as are new product rollouts. “Consumers continue to look for convenience products for their busy lifestyles,” says Nancy Cowen, director of marketing for Bob Evans Farms, which expanded its fully cooked Express sausage line earlier this year to include fully cooked Express hickory smoked bacon, including Original, Maple and Lite varieties. “Fully-cooked bacon is another item that meets this trend. … The varieties available on grocery store shelves indicate that consumers like the taste and convenience of fully-cooked bacon.”
Oscar Mayer, for its part, recently enhanced its Ready to Serve bacon line with a new Hearty Thick Cut Bacon. Likewise, the Swift Premium brand of fully cooked breakfast meats now includes a bacon variety.
Top 10 Refrigerated Bacon Brands*
  Dollar Sales ($ millions) Dollar Sales % Change Prior Year Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) Unit Sales % Change Prior Year
1. Private Label 387.9 -3.2 19.6 140.0 4.6
2. Oscar Mayer 384.5 -1.3 19.4 102.0 3.9
3. Hormel Black Label 125.2 -5.0 6.3 36.7 0.2
4. Bar S 67.5 -2.6 3.4 27.2 7.5
5. Farmland 65.4 -6.7 3.3 21.3 -3.4
6. Hormel 63.0 -4.3 3.2 15.4 -2.6
7. Wright 60.2 -3.4 3.0 9.2 0.4
8. Smithfield 58.2 -7.1 2.9 20.7 -0.9
9. Gwaltney 55.7 -15.6 2.8 21.2 -12.0
10. Louis Rich 54.0 -6.3 2.7 18.3 -8.2
Total Category 1,978.9 -6.6 100 649.9 -1.5
*Total U.S. -F/D/MX (supermarkets, drug stores, and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) for the 52 weeks ending July 16, 2006.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
Also mirroring trends in other protein categories, heat-and-serve meals featuring breakfast sausage and bacon appeal to the cross-section of consumers who want something satisfying, wholesome and quick and easy to prepare in the morning or for a midday snack. Bob Evans added new varieties to its Snackwich line, including a Sausage Egg and Cheese on a Croissant, Sausage Egg and Cheese on an English Muffin, and Canadian-style Ham, Egg, and Cheese on an English Muffin.
Stonehocker, too, says that consumer response to such portable meals has been clear. “Sandwiches are just smoking, and they’ve been very successful for us,” he says. In addition to Odom’s sandwiches sold in retail and foodservice settings in packages and individually wrapped portions, the brand has scored with its sausage bowl product made with sausage, cheese and a biscuit, which now includes a jalapeno variety. To keep up with demand, notes Stonehocker, the company expanded its Dixon, Tenn., plant to include eight lines dedicated to sandwich assembly.
The industry-wide trend toward offering more natural options has affected the breakfast sausage and bacon categories as well, though to a lesser extent than fresh meats and deli meats. Applegate Farms, Bridgewater, N.J., developed new peppered and dry cured bacon as part of its natural and organic line, while Denver-based Maverick Ranch Natural Meats now offers an apple-smoked bacon. NP