IRI SAYS FROZEN MEAT, SOY BURGER SALES RISING

CHICAGO -- Sales of frozen meat and meat substitutes, such as soy-based burgers, are showing the strongest growth the category has seen in several years, according to Information Resources, Inc., here.In dollar sales, the category grew 15.2% to $474 million, while unit sales were almost comparably up, by 14% to 118.3 million, for the 52-week period ended September 13, 1998. Frozen meat and meat substitutes

CHICAGO -- Sales of frozen meat and meat substitutes, such as soy-based burgers, are showing the strongest growth the category has seen in several years, according to Information Resources, Inc., here.

In dollar sales, the category grew 15.2% to $474 million, while unit sales were almost comparably up, by 14% to 118.3 million, for the 52-week period ended September 13, 1998. Frozen meat and meat substitutes was the number one frozen category, IRI said. Private label was the best-performing "brand," followed by Gardenburger vegetable products, with dollar sales of $38 million. In third place was Morningstar Farms with sales of $36 million, a 9% increase, IRI said. Next were Steak Umm, Green Giant Harvest Burgers, Advance Fast Fixin, No Name Steaks, Topps, Armour Homestyle, Moran, and Philly Gourmet, according to IRI.

Out in the field, Bryan Nichols, frozen category marketing manager at Harris Teeter, Matthews, N.C., said, "We're seeing strong growth in those categories, driven by new items from Gardenburger and Morningstar Farms. Gardenburger has doubled the number of stockkeeping units in the last 18 months."

Jerry Goshien, meat and produce director at Mad Butcher, Pine Bluff, Ark., said he carries Gardenburger. "That's been one of the big things we had at our food show. We have demoed it in our stores and it has done well," he said.

Beef patties in the frozen end have also shown increased sales, he added, with all meat and meatless probably in the 15% range.

Gardenburger, based in Portland, Ore., has been doing a lot of advertising, Nichols observed.

The veggie burger category is up about 60% from a year ago, said Lyle Hubbard, chief executive officer of Gardenburger, citing figures from ACNeilsen, Schaumburg, Ill. ACNeilsen created a category for frozen imitation meat, and in it burgers represent about 60% of the meatless food, he said.

"The burgers are what is really growing," said Hubbard. He added that the company spent $17 million on advertising in 1998, which included the "Seinfeld" series finale on May 14.

"Frankly, the business really took off right at that point in time. We captured 90% of the growth, and that's why our market share more than doubled," Hubbard told SN.