To meet the increasingly stringent demands of today's on-the-go consumer, manufacturers are expanding product offerings in the frozen breakfast foods category, creating new items that are more portable and convenient. As more and more products enter this frozen section of supermarkets, competition for space in the freezer case continues to grow and retailers are left with the daunting task of choosing which new products will bring in the most sales and which older, slow-moving items will need to be replaced.
Retailers are also taking it upon themselves to advocate the convenience of these newer, high-demand breakfast products, through point-of-purchase signage and advertising promotions. And, as the frozen breakfast category lends itself well to cross-promotions, many are focusing their advertising efforts on tie-ins to other breakfast items -- like french toast sticks with maple syrup and milk -- creating meal solutions as an additional benefit to time-starved consumers.
"There have been a lot of new grab n' go items in the frozen-breakfast category recently, mostly items that can be quickly cooked or toasted like breakfast pockets and waffles," said Kevin Copper, store buyer for Sterks Super Foods, the supermarket chain based in Jasper, Ind. "Every few years there are new, more convenient products entering this frozen category. When one new product is introduced, a bunch of other similar products are developed, too and we have to decide where to put them and how to draw consumer's attention to them."
Deciding where to put these new frozen goods can be a problem for some retailers who have very little space to work with in the first place. Most don't have room to tack on additional freezer cases unless the store itself is scheduled for an overall expansion.
As a result, many retailers are forced to eliminate slower-moving breakfast items and refill the space with new frozen products that are more likely to bring consumers into the store.
"If the situation presented itself, we would definitely want to expand our frozen breakfast selection. We are remodeling and expanding some of our existing stores and opening seven new stores which will all possess extensive freezer cases," said Tom Outlaw, vice president of grocery sales for Ingles Markets, the Asheville, N. C.-based supermarket chain. "For those stores where we can't expand the freezer cases, we would reduce our concentrated juice section, since it seems to be decreasing in demand, and replace the space with newer breakfast selections."
Although most retailers would welcome the ability to expand, such elaborate modifications aren't typically feasible. As a result, space remains limited in the freezer case and a product rotation approach to category management is quickly becoming the best alternative.
While some retailers rely on marketing materials provided by the supplier, others are creating their own POP signage to draw attention to the items.
"Some of the larger retailers can put items on endcaps and possibly expand their freezer cases, but our store is fairly small and we don't have room for expansion. So, when new, more convenient items - like breakfast sandwiches, croissants, waffles and french toast sticks - are introduced, we usually cut out some of the slower moving products and replace them with newer items," said Kevin Dukett, frozen food and dairy manager for Highland Park Markets, the independent grocer based in Glastonbury, Conn.
"And, if the new product is a recent entrant or a new line, we'll create a sign to display at the point-of-purchase at the freezer case to draw attention to the launch."
One overwhelming trend -- meal solutions -- is pushing retailers to cross-promote their frozen breakfast foods with other items throughout the store. In an attempt to offer breakfast ideas and solutions to consumers, retailers are including tie-ins in their advertising efforts for a variety of products like frozen waffles, bacon and orange juice.
"To help promote the newer frozen items, retailers have signage in-store at the point-of-sale and are doing a lot of tie-in breakfast promotions with other items in the store," said Joe D'Alberto, president of the Frozen Foods Council of North Carolina, Charlotte. "Retailers are also looking hard at duplications and some of the weaker SKUs, especially frozen waffles, and these are the items they are least interested in. Right now, the growth in the freezer has been in pancakes and french toast with Toaster Strudels driving the category."
Capitalizing on the opportunity to promote new frozen breakfast items through cross-promotions, many retailers are hosting joint sampling demonstrations in their stores. By including several different products from the frozen-breakfast category with other items throughout the store, retailers are introducing the latest, most convenient frozen items as well as providing consumers with useful meal solutions.
"We do a lot of co-op sampling demos using our private-label goods and a few brand name products from suppliers. We might sample a toaster waffle from Eggo, a branded orange juice and our private-label syrup," said John Paul, category manager for frozen and dairy for the Norristown, Pa.-based Genuardi's Family Markets. "We also do a lot of breakfast sales, cross-promoting breakfast products from a lot of different departments across the store -- frozen toaster scramblers, milk, eggs and cereal -- all in the same ad."
To efficiently manage the frozen breakfast category, many retailers are choosing to discard competing products and only merchandise one brand of waffle, pancake or croissant sandwich. By choosing a single, top-selling brand, retailers are able to fill more space with a quick-moving product, eliminating out-of-stock issues.
When choosing which brand to carry for each individual category, retailers often focus on the items that generate the most sales. However, they also consider the items that elicit the most response from repeat advertisements.
"When we are bringing in new items, we use category management practices to move out old items and maximize sales with the fewest products. To prevent out-of-stocks, we spread out the best-selling items and stock the space full of that one product," said Paul. "Instead of having two items competing for that same space, we focus on one brand that is in high demand and we usually increase spread on the items we advertise a lot."
The future of the frozen breakfast category is promising as consumer demand for convenient, more portable products continues to rise. And, while frozen foods have been competing with other departments and products in the store, this growing demand for convenience is shifting the focus to outside competitors.
"Convenient selections of frozen foods in general will continue to expand. Since most meals, including breakfast, have become on-the-go meals, fast and convenient frozen foods will be successful for a very long time," said Outlaw.
"Expanding these convenience breakfast food sections should take business back from one of our biggest competitors - fast food restaurants."
Some expect the frozen breakfast category to eventually warrant premium space in the freezer, even bumping highly popular selections like meal entrees.
"Unlike the shelf-stable parts of the store, there is only so much freezer space and with so many new frozen breakfast foods entering the market, retailers are going to start re-thinking their freezer cases in general," said Richard George, professor of food marketing for St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "A lot of the space in the freezer has been dedicated to dinner entrees, but these brands will start to lose some of their facing as the shift moves from dinner down to some lunches and a lot of convenient breakfast items. Now that these new breakfast items are conducive to 'dashboard dining,' a lot more consumers are willing to make breakfast at home and that's where the space will be needed in the freezer case."