Capitalizing on Potential

By Andy Hanacek, executive editor

Sausage makers are working hard to find the right combination of products that deliver taste and other benefits that consumers demand in order to grow the category.

The more things change, the more they stay the same — it seems the sausage industry reflects that statement pretty well.
Despite plenty of innovation and reported success from several companies in response to innovative products, retail sales data gathered from Information Resources, Inc., and foodservice data gathered from the Foodservice Research Institute’s MenuMine database show the sausage category holding steady at best, slipping a bit at worst, as a whole.
Yet, if you ask the folks making the sausage, the times aren’t as bad as they seem — excitement abounds.
Take the folks at Sara Lee Food and Beverage, makers of Jimmy Dean products, who are plenty excited about their advertising campaign and the new products they’ve rolled out.
“We had a wonderful year,” explains Jim Ruehlmann, vice president of breakfast and snacking for Sara Lee Foods. “It’s always a great year to be in the Jimmy Dean business, but we saw pretty good growth across our Jimmy Dean portfolio, and we’re feeling pretty good about the future.”
Jimmy Dean’s success may be the result of careful new-product planning and a popular ad campaign that hit the airwaves promoting the convenience and great taste of Jimmy Dean breakfast products.
“It’s not just a function of taking a new product and throwing it on the market,” Ruehlmann adds. “You have to do your homework with the consumer, to make certain that you thoroughly understand the consumer need, and then you’re bringing a product forward to meet that need.
“We’ve also been blessed with the addition of wonderful advertising that has aided and abetted our communication with consumers,” he continues. “It’s been remarkable the amount of feedback that we’ve been getting on our new Sun Campaign. It has done remarkable things for us. We do tracking studies on our advertising communication, and by every sign that we’ve gotten, the communication has been robust with consumers.”
Jimmy Dean’s newest products — its Skillets and Bowls products — hit on the broad consumer demand for convenience and extend it into the breakfast daypart.
“What we’ve tapped into with Skillets is this area called ‘speed-scratch,’” Ruehlmann says. “What we’ve tried to do is take the first two hours out of the preparation scenario and let the consumer finish it to his or her tastes and call it their own.”
Ruehlmann adds that the bowls tap into the on-the-go convenience of the fast-paced adult world.
“They can eat it at home, at the office — if they’re running late, they can grab it and take it with them,” he says. “It takes out the need to go through a line at a cafeteria or quick-serve restaurant. It’s two minutes and we’re ready.”
Valerie Lester, director of marketing for Hillshire Farm, sees convenience as a main driver in breakfast sausage as well.
“Breakfast consumption continues to trend to more convenient alternatives,” she says. “Jimmy Dean frozen breakfast options’ dollar sales were up 32 percent and consumption was up 35 percent. Convenient breakfast options continue to drive growth.”
Outside the breakfast daypart, convenience takes a side note to taste. Sausage is sold on taste, and sausage manufacturers tend to agree that if a new product cannot pass the taste test and be craved by consumers, then it is typically a product that is not worth making, particularly in the area of healthy food and nutrition.
“[Healthy] could mean better nutrition, lower cholesterol, less fat—there are lots of different things,” says Ruehlmann. “We’ve done some work to better understand it, … but I would say that this is an area that is open for continual work on the part of manufacturers, whether it’s us or our competitors. And I think there’s a pretty good prize out there for the first person to capitalize in this broad area of health and nutrition.”
At Johnsonville Sausage, LLC, taste is paramount — it is a mantra that they live by day in and day out. However, they realize that there is an enormous void that needs to be filled, and they are striving to fill as much of that gap as they can.
“Sausage is typically two percent of every meat department, so that’s why … we have great opportunities across all of our product lines to grow this category,” Tom Wolff, director of marketing, explains. “So, sometimes we’ll focus on one [product] more than another, but when we look at the whole category, there’s tremendous growth potential for this category.”
Now, sausage manufacturers simply need to fill in the gaps and bring consumers the products they crave in order to start growing the category and reaping the benefits of delivering their great-tasting pride and joy.
Top Foodservice Segments Serving Sausage in 2006
Foodservice segment Sausage Items Percent*
Family Dining Chain- Breakfast/Bakery/Cafe61029.20
Family Dining Indep.- Coffee Shop/Breakfast2069.86
Non-Com-College/University1376.56
Family Dining Chain- Pizza/Italian1185.65
QSR Chain- Burgers1085.17
QSR Chain- Sandwiches/Bakery803.83
Non-Com-Business & Industry633.02
Casual Chain- Theme/Bar633.02
Casual Chain- Italian Dinnerhouse622.97
QSR Chain- Pizza602.87
Non-Com-School472.25
Non-Com-Nursing Home432.06
Non-Com-School District422.01
QSR Chain- Chicken341.63
Casual Independent- American281.34
Non-Com-Hospital251.20
Fast Casual Chain Breakfast/ Bakery211.01
Ethnic Neighborhood-Hispanic211.01
Family Dining Chain- Buffet/Cafeteria211.01
* - of 2,089 sausage items
SOURCE: Foodservice Research Institute, MenuMine database
Sausage: Not Just for Breakfast
Menu Part Sausage Items Percent*
Breakfast Entrée89142.63
Breakfast Sandwich25712.30
Pizza25512.20
Breakfast Side Dish1627.75
Sandwich1577.51
Prepared Entrée1266.03
Center of Plate562.68
Hot Dog/Polish Sausage482.30
Appetizer422.01
Side Dish301.44
* - of 2,090 sausage menu items in 2006
SOURCE: Foodservice Research Institute, MenuMine database
Top 5 Sausage Menu Items
Menu Item # of appearances Percent*
Breakfast Sausage Side1024.88
Breakfast Sandwich w/Cheese/Egg/Sausage743.54
Pancake Entrée w/Sausage653.11
Sausage Pizza472.25
Biscuits and Gravy w/Sausage462.20
* - of 2,090 sausage menu items
SOURCE: Foodservice Research Institute, MenuMine database
Hot Dogs on the Menu by Sector — 2006
Market Sector Items Percent*
QSR Chain Sector19537.72
Non-Commercial16131.14
Casual Chain Sector438.32
Midscale Chain Sector377.16
Fast Casual Chain Sector356.77
Midscale Indep. Sector326.19
Cutting Edge Indep. Sector71.35
Casual Indep. Sector71.35
* - of 517 hot dog menu items
SOURCE: Foodservice Research Institute, MenuMine database
Top Foodservice Cuisines Menuing Sausage in 2006
Cuisine Sausage Items Percent*
American Breakfast Cuisine62029.67
American-Regional Cuisine55626.60
Italian Cuisine Family49423.64
American-Traditional Cuisine1346.41
Latin Cuisine Family1004.78
N. European Cuisine Family803.83
French/Continental Cuisine Family411.96
Cuisines for Breakfast221.05
Mediterranean Cuisine Family221.05
* - of 2,090 sausage menu items
SOURCE: Foodservice Research Institute, MenuMine database
Hot Dogs on the Menu by Segment — 2006
Foodservice Segment Items Percent*
QSR Chain- Burgers10921.08
Non-Com-School448.51
Non-Com-School District366.96
Non-Com-College/University356.77
QSR Chain- Sandwiches/Bakery326.19
Casual Chain- Theme/Bar265.03
Family Dining Chain- Breakfast/Bakery/Cafe254.84
Fast Casual Chain Burger214.06
Non-Com-Nursing Home203.87
QSR Chain- Chili/Spicy/Cajun173.29
Family Dining Indep.- Coffee Shop/Breakfast163.09
Non-Com-Business & Industry132.51
Family Dining Indep.- BBQ122.32
Fast Casual Chain Sandwich/ Bakery112.13
QSR Chain- Convenience Store112.13
Note: Top 15 segments listed. Total sample size is 517 hot dog menu items.
SOURCE: Foodservice Research Institute, MenuMine database
Top 5 cities, breakfast sausage consumption, 2006:
City Sausage sales
Philadelphia$32,227,320
Baltimore/Washington $31,156,870
Los Angeles$30,209,360
Chicago$23,204,370
Detroit$20,729,220
SOURCE: National Hot Dog and Sausage Council
Top 5 cities, dinner sausage consumption, 2006
City Sausage sales
Los Angeles$73,081,390
New York$55,059,190
San Antonio/Corpus Christi$49,010,970
Houston$46,592,630
Chicago$42,264,980
SOURCE: National Hot Dog and Sausage Council
The Versatile Hot Dog
Item Type on Menu # of appearances Percent*
Hot Dog25248.37
Corn Dog12423.80
Chili Dog438.25
Chili Cheese Dog305.76
Hot Dog w/Cheese152.88
Sauerkraut Dog71.34
Turkey Hot Dog61.15
Bagel Sandwich w/Meat61.15
* - of 521 hot dog menu items
SOURCE: Foodservice Research Institute, MenuMine database
Frank-
furters (Refrige-
rated)
VendorDollar Sales (in millions) % ChangeDollar ShareUnit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 Individual Brands OSCAR MAYER$299.9-1.419.3115.5-1.2
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 BALL PARK$254.4-2.316.491.9-4.8
BAR S$129.45.18.3119.09.6
PRIVATE LABEL$90.6-7.35.859.3-7.7
HEBREW NATIONAL$90.115.05.824.220.0
NATHAN$80.78.25.220.96.4
GWALTNEY$40.42.92.630.40.0
BRYAN$28.5-9.41.815.1-5.5
JOHN MORRELL$24.0-11.51.522.8-13.8
ECKRICH$21.9-11.71.413.6-7.6
Total$1,555.3-3.4100.0736.8-4.4
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets,
Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Frozen Sausage Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 Individual Brands ARMOUR BROWN N SERVE$72.3-23.337.149.9-22.4
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 BANQUET$18.5--9.513.5--
  PRIVATE LABEL$15.0-23.27.76.0-23.2
JONES GOLDEN BROWN$14.42.17.47.53.7
MORNINGSTAR FARMS$13.4-8.46.93.7-9.2
JIMMY DEAN$11.722.36.03.526.7
JONES$9.4-6.04.82.9-6.0
ARMOUR BROWN N SERVE LITE$7.9-15.14.15.4-12.4
JOHNSONVILLE$6.3-23.23.21.5-21.6
TENNESSEE PRIDE$5.311.82.71.710.6
Total$195.0-5.3100.0104.8-3.6
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Dinner Sausage (Refrige-
rated)
Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 Individual Brands HILLSHIRE FARM$271.2-0.117.491.3-0.3
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 JOHNSONVILLE$248.81.116.059.1-0.0
PRIVATE LABEL$126.32.58.143.95.7
ECKRICH$76.4-9.44.927.2-3.2
AIDELLS$27.712.81.84.712.4
PREMIO$27.01.91.77.82.6
BAR S$26.30.41.77.79.4
JOHN MORRELL$25.7-8.91.714.1-10.2
JOHNSONVILLE BEDDAR WITH CHEDDAR$24.414.31.67.313.8
HILLSHIRE FARM CHEDDARWURST$21.012.21.37.013.3
Total$1,559.6-0.5100.0489.7-0.1
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Refrige-
rated Breakfast Sausage/
Ham
Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 Individual Brands JIMMY DEAN$155.9-1.818.353.60.6
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 BOB EVANS$114.0-1.913.434.20.9
  PRIVATE LABEL$68.47.78.028.98.7
JOHNSONVILLE$63.2-0.97.419.1-1.7
TENNESSEE PRIDE$45.5-0.75.316.61.4
JIMMY DEAN FRESH TASTE FAST$32.9-17.13.910.3-14.3
FARMER JOHN$30.1-7.33.522.2-5.3
OWENS$25.21.52.99.28.5
HORMEL LITTLE SIZZLER$20.4-1.72.414.83.2
PURNELL OLD FOLKS$18.2-3.02.14.84.0
Total$852.8-2.2100.0323.0-0.4
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Frank-
furters (Refrige-rated)
Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 vendors KRAFT FOODS INC.$317.7-1.420.4123.9-1.2
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 BALL PARK BRANDS$274.7-2.617.799.4-5.0
  BAR-S FOODS CO$141.84.79.1129.69.6
CONAGRA INC$123.7-11.78.043.0-27.2
PRIVATE LABEL$90.6-7.35.859.3-7.7
NATHANS FAMOUS$80.78.25.220.96.4
GWALTNEY OF SMITHFIELD LTD$48.7-2.73.135.6-5.2
JOHN MORRELL & COMPANY$46.2-9.73.045.0-11.0
HILLSHIRE FARM & KAHNS$32.3-10.92.112.3-9.7
BRYAN FOODS INC$28.5-9.41.815.1-5.5
Total$1,555.3-3.4100.0736.8-4.4
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Frozen Sausage Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 vendors CONAGRA INC$104.5-4.653.672.5-2.7
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 JONES DAIRY FARM$23.7-1.212.210.50.8
  PRIVATE LABEL$15.0-23.27.76.0-23.2
KELLOGG CO$13.4-8.46.93.7-9.2
JIMMY DEAN FOODS$12.021.06.13.625.2
JOHNSONVILLE FOODS INC$6.3-23.23.21.5-21.6
ODOMS TENN PRIDE SAUSAGE INC$5.311.82.71.710.6
JENNIE O TURKEY STORE$2.35.91.21.59.3
SWAGGERTY SAUSAGE CO$1.812.80.90.417.3
KRAFT FOODS INC.$1.4-11.70.70.5-15.3
Total$195.0-5.3100.0104.8-3.6
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Dinner Sausage (Refri-gerated) Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 vendors HILLSHIRE FARM & KAHNS$316.20.620.3105.40.5
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 JOHNSONVILLE FOODS INC$300.41.719.374.20.6
  CONAGRA INC$128.2-7.08.247.9-1.2
PRIVATE LABEL$126.32.58.143.95.7
JOHN MORRELL & COMPANY$31.1-12.52.017.3-11.9
AIDELLS SAUSAGE CO.$27.712.81.84.712.4
BRYAN FOODS INC$27.3-17.51.79.8-17.8
BAR-S FOODS CO$27.1-0.11.77.88.8
GARDEN STATE SAUSAGE CO$27.01.81.77.82.5
HORMEL FOODS$18.5-4.61.25.4-4.7
Total$1,559.6-0.5100.0489.7-0.1
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Refrige-
rated Breakfast Sausage
/Ham
Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 10 vendors JIMMY DEAN FOODS$199.0-3.723.367.4-0.8
LATEST 52 WEEKS ENDING DEC. 31, 2006 BOB EVANS FARMS INC$115.6-1.813.634.91.0
  PRIVATE LABEL$68.47.78.028.98.7
JOHNSONVILLE FOODS INC$63.2-0.97.419.1-1.7
ODOMS TENN PRIDE SAUSAGE INC$46.3-0.65.416.81.4
HORMEL FOODS$35.1-4.24.119.30.5
CLOUGHERTY PCKG CO$30.1-7.33.522.2-5.3
OWENS COUNTRY SAUSAGE INC$25.21.33.09.38.2
PURNELL SAUSAGE CO INC$18.2-3.02.14.84.0
TAYLOR PROV CO$18.01.72.17.41.5
Total$852.8-2.2100.0323.0-0.4
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Frozen Frank-furters Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 5 vendors SHELTON$443,649-1.943.0135,849-6.2
For 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2006 ROGER WOOD$210,306-0.220.459,9763.6
NATIONAL PROVISIONS$169,282158.316.454,649309.7
ORGANIC VALLEY$67,447420.36.512,218403.2
ROCKY DOGS$51,59645.75.015,07138.2
Total$1,031,90319.2100.0298,08510.0
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Frozen Frank-furters Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 5 vendors SHELTON POULTRY INC$443,649-1.943.0135,849-6.2
For 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2006 ROGER WOOD PCKG CO$210,306-0.220.459,9763.6
NATIONAL PROVISIONS$169,282158.316.454,649309.7
COULEE REGION ORGANIC PRODUCE$74,574475.37.213,514456.6
PETALUMA POULTRY PROCESSORS$51,59645.75.015,07138.2
Total$1,031,90319.2100.0298,08510.0
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Dried Meat Snacks Vendor Dollar Sales (in millions) % Change Dollar Share Unit Sales (millions) % Change
Top 5 vendors OH BOY OBERTO$62.9-3.120.712.4-5.0
For 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2006 JACK LINKS$61.032.020.116.726.4
SLIM JIM$50.0-2.716.531.9-5.7
PRIVATE LABEL$27.522.99.17.725.6
BRIDGFORD$19.5-8.76.44.4-7.8
Total$303.2-1.0100.0101.9-2.7
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)
Dried Meat Snacks            
Top 5 vendors FRITO LAY$66.5-3.621.916.4-8.1
For 52 weeks ending Dec. 31, 2006 LINK INDS$63.533.120.918.932.0
  CONAGRA INC$63.1-11.220.835.5-9.6
PRIVATE LABEL$27.522.99.17.725.6
BRIDGFORD FOODS CORP$19.5-8.76.44.5-7.9
Total$303.2-1.0100.0101.9-2.7
Source: Information Resources, Inc. TOTAL U.S. - F/D/MX (Supermarkets, Drugstores, and Mass Merchandise Outlets (excluding Wal-Mart)