joke by deadpan comedian Steven Wright
goes: “A restaurant had a sign that said
‘Breakfast Anytime.’ So I went in and ordered
French toast during the Renaissance.”
Breakfast may not be quite that versatile in real life, but
In both the long and short term, breakfast has evolved
as much or more than any other meal daypart. And ready-to-eat breakfast offerings in grocery freezer cases have
evolved with them. Some of these changes are due to general trends that have affected most forms of food retailing
and consumption, and others are unique to breakfast.
In the frozen aisles, breakfast products have out-
paced others. Sales of frozen breakfast items grew 24%
from 2012 to 2017, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Although growth has flattened out in the past two years,
frozen breakfast items still outperform frozen food as a
whole. According to the 2017 State of the Industry Report
from the National Refrigerated and Frozen Food Asso-
ciation, breakfast options are one of the few frozen food
categories that have shown consistent long-term growth,
with an average 7.9% compound annual growth in sales
for breakfast entrees and 5.2% in breakfast sandwiches
over the past four years.
Millennials are key to this performance, especially those
with young children. According to a survey by Acosta, 82%
of millennials agreed that frozen foods were valuable as a
convenient breakfast option for their children.
“Millennial and Gen X mothers are very health-conscious and looking for convenient and healthy breakfast
options,” says Colin Stewart, SVP of Acosta. “Frozen
breakfast offers some great options versus sugary cereal
products or having to prepare a protein-based breakfast
As a daypart, breakfast is unique in several ways, one of
which is its history. The hearty breakfast of days gone by
came about because morning was the best chance for
farmers and their field hands to load up on the calories they
needed for the day’s hard work; it often was inconvenient,
or impossible, for everyone to assemble back at the farmhouse for lunch. (This is why some restaurants still advertise an elaborate morning meal as a “farm breakfast.”)
The situation is paralleled by modern uncertainty as
to when, and in what form, today’s office workers will
be able to eat lunch. That means they’re looking for a
breakfast substantial enough to keep their stomachs
from growling during that last-minute noon meeting. As
a report by the Hartman Group puts it: “The new American weekday breakfast is moving from light, grain-based
breakfast foods tied to old notions of nutrition to high-er-satiety foods that consumers believe will give them
sustained energy to cope with an unpredictable schedule.” This dynamic is in large part behind the adage that
“breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
But if breakfast is the most important meal, it’s also the
hastiest. Making elaborate, protein-rich breakfasts takes
time that many consumers don’t have in the morning.
This sets the stage for prepared frozen breakfasts.
“If I’m in a rush in the morning, I need to get my kids
off to school or daycare and off to work, there’s a convenience aspect—yet I can still feel that I’m providing
a healthy, good start for my children for the day,” says
Karen Strauss, principal at Cadent Consulting.
The current trend toward favoring protein over carbohydrates is nowhere more evident than in breakfast. “A lot of
Fridge & Frozen
Frozen morning meals provide consumers with convenience,
comfort and, increasingly, a protein-rich start to the day.
By Pan Demetrakakes
Sales growth in frozen
breakfast items from
2012 to 2017.