Steelcut oatmeal is certainly healthy, but it’s often overlooked because it can take about 45 minutes to make. But Trader Joe’s  shoppers can prepare it in just three minutes simply by strolling down the retailer’s frozen food section.
That’s right, the frozens department is where Trader Joe’s sells its private-label steel cut oatmeal. As odd as it sounds, other frozen oatmeal brands are also on the market.
“Who would think that we would need a frozen cereal? But frozen oatmeal is actually a great idea,” said Barbara Ruhs, corporate registered dietitian, for Bashas’ , Chandler Ariz.
Though Americans want to eat healthier, many lack the time to make one of the most important meals of the day. True, some frozens are packed with fat, sodium and calories. But an array of new breakfast dishes provides a quick, satisfying and better-for-you way to start the day.
“There’s a misconception that all frozen breakfast foods are unhealthy,” said Ruhs. “There are a lot more healthier items on the market.”
Ruhs is particularly fond of Kellogg’s Morningstar Farms brand, which markets such offerings as Veggie Bacon Strips, Maple Flavored Veggie Sausage Patties and Veggie Sausage Links.
“Morningstar Farms has made some great innovations in the breakfast realm,” she said.
The frozen food section can also be a destination for those with dietary restrictions. Take, for instance, Nature’s Path gluten-free waffles.
The popularity of better-for-you frozen entrees has made way for a host of new options in the breakfast section. Indeed, manufacturers are catering to consumer demands for healthier, more convenient breakfast choices.
“Manufacturers see this as an opportunity, just like they did with frozen entrées years ago,” Ruhs said.
Among the newer options is Pillsbury Egg Scrambles, made with real egg, meat, cheese and Green Giant vegetables. Flavors include Bacon & Veggies and Sausage & Veggies. Each has 300 calories or less per serving.
Waffles are also seen in a new light with introductions like Kellogg’s Simply Eggo, made without artificial color, flavoring or preservatives. Eggo has plenty of other healthier fare, including Eggo Protein Waffles, with 8 grams in each two-waffle serving; Eggo Homestyle Low-Fat waffles, with 50% less fat than regular; FiberPlus Calcium Buttermilk Waffles; and Eggo Nutri-Grain waffles.
Highland Park Market’s Glastonbury, Conn., store has kept up with the trend by carrying items like the Eggo Nutri-Grain Waffles, said grocery manager Tim Cummisky.
While frozen breakfast is a small category in the store, sales jump in the beginning of the year.
“When people are trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions of eating healthier, we’ll see a spike in these types of items,” he said.
Category consumption is being driven mostly by a growing desire to start the day with more convenient and better-for-you breakfast options, either at home or on the go, said Amy Grabow, brand general manager for Sara Lee’s Jimmy Dean brand.
“We continue to see growth within the frozen breakfast category specifically with items containing less calories and a lower fat content,” Grabow told SN.
Jimmy Dean has responded by marketing products like “Delights,” a line of low-calorie breakfast sandwiches and bowls. Each item in the line offers consumers a breakfast solution for less than 300 calories and more than 14 grams of protein per serving.
Jimmy Dean has found that consumers are particularly responsive to turkey-based meats, specifically turkey sausage.
Indeed, while consumers want to eat right, they also want a satisfying, protein-filled meal, said Harry Balzer, vice president of The NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y.
“We want our meals to be hearty,” Balzer said.
Consumers increasingly get their breakfast from home. About 76% of Americans prepare and consume breakfast inside the home, up from 74% in 2006, according NPD.
“Breakfast, like all meals, is coming back to the home,” said Balzer.
While in the past, consumers shifted between consuming breakfast in the home and outside of the home, there is less of that now.
When asked where they got their breakfast over a 14-day period last year, about 38% of respondents said both from in-home and out of home, down from 42% in 2008.
“There’s less sourcing from two places, and more sourcing from one place,” Balzer said.
The top 10 breakfast items are coffee, cold cereal, juice, milk, fruit, bread, eggs, hot cereal, tea and bacon, respectively, according to NPD.
“Consumers are looking for products that will provide them with some of those 10 products in a novel way to make their lives easier and cheaper,” Balzer added.
The Breakfast Club
GLENDALE, Calif. — Better-for-you isn’t the only trend in the frozen breakfast section. Foodservice brands including IHOP and Cinnabon are also making a statement.
IHOP launched a line of premium frozen breakfast items inspired by the flavors of IHOP. The new “IHOP at Home” line includes French Toast Stuffed Pastries, Omelet Crispers and Griddle ‘n Sausage Wraps.
“When our guests don’t have the time to visit an IHOP Restaurant but don’t want to settle for their at home breakfast, IHOP at Home provides a delicious new option,” Jean Birch, IHOP president, said in a statement.
The new line was introduced last year at more than 3,000 Walmart locations. The company plans to expand the line and distribution to additional retail and grocery outlets.
The frozens department is also home to Cinnabon frozen pancakes. Distributed under a licensing agreement with Kellogg Co., the waffles feature cinnamon and brown sugar flavor with hints of icing baked right in.
Meanwhile, a popular Center Store brand has also migrated to frozens. Smucker’s Snack’n Waffles have the syrup baked right in, making them a portable, grab-and-go breakfast.
According to a survey conducted by Kelton Research on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company, six in ten (59%) of all respondents would rather have a delicious morning meal than an extra 15 minutes of sleep.
Smucker’s Snack’n Waffles come in four flavors: Blueberry, Maple, Cinnamon and Chocolate Chip.
Most Important Meal
CHICAGO — There’s plenty of opportunity to attract more shoppers to the frozen breakfast section.
That’s because one out of 10, or 31 million, Americans don’t eat breakfast, according to a survey by The NPD Group here.
Males, ages 18-34, have the highest incidence of skipping (28%), whereas adults 55 and older have the lowest incidence.
Among children, the percent of individuals who don’t eat or drink anything in the morning increases as children age, with 13-to-17-year-olds (14%) skipping breakfast most often.
Among the reasons individuals give for not eating or drinking anything prior to 11 a.m. is that they weren’t hungry/thirsty or didn’t feel like eating or drinking. Other top reasons are that they didn’t have time and were too busy.
Adult females show a higher propensity to skip a morning occasion due to a time constraint, like being too busy, rushing to get out the door, or running late.
For those who do eat a morning meal, three-fourths have their morning meals, snacks and beverages in their home. About one in five consume foods and beverages in the morning both at-home and away-from-home on a typical day; and 14% of individuals have their morning meals away from home.