Retail bakery foods: Controlled intake
Temptation is everywhere, and sometimes everyone needs a little guidance. At least that’s the idea behind the MTV reality TV show “Parental Control,” in which parents who disapprove of their teenager’s romantic interest have the opportunity to set him or her up with a parentally approved date. At the end of each episode, the teenager ultimately gets to decide to (A) stay with his or her significant other or (B) trade up for the mom-and-dad-approved suitor.
Similarly, when it comes to refrigerated and frozen bakery foods, processors seem to think consumers need a little guidance in choosing what - and how much - to eat. This year, several processors came to market with portion-controlled packaging and healthier products. Of course, here too, the decision ultimately is up to the consumer.
One thing is clear - in both cases, the recipient is a willing participant. In fact, Sara Lee Corp., Downers Grove, Ill., reported that ready-to-eat sweets sales climbed to $16.6 billion between September 2006 and September 2007. And Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago, noted that frozen cookie dough sales were up 36.1 percent in the 52-weeks ending Jan. 27, 2008.
Still, health and portion-size concerns have consumers wanting to make better choices and processors have taken note. For example, this year Schwan’s Bakery Inc., Suwanee, Ga., (a division of The Schwan Food Co., Marshall, Minn.) added to its lineup of frozen pies, cobblers and cakes with Mrs. Smith’s Reduced Sugar Pie Slices with Splenda brand sweetener. The pie slices have 60 percent less sugar than the brand’s traditional pie slices and also have no trans fat. The fruit-filled pie slices are microwaveable and come in two-slice packages. Varieties include classic Apple and Mixed Berry varieties.
"Consumers get full flavor and texture as with a traditional Mrs. Smith's apple or berry pie -[ with less sugar,” said Mike D'Addieco, Mrs. Smith's Bake and Serve brand manager, in a statement. “Plus, the twin pack keeps portions small. It's a perfect sweet snack or dessert that's fast, easy and delicious."
Still more single-serve sweets came in the form of Cheesecake Bites launched by Sara Lee in February. These frozen bite-size desserts have 20 calories per bite and are packaged in containers of 30 bites. Sara Lee says the bites offer portion control and portability and come in three varieties: Original, Chocolate and Strawberry.
Said Sara Lee Marketing Director Carl Gerlach, “Sara Lee Bites will give families a contemporary grab-and-go version of the desserts that have made Sara Lee synonymous with sweets.”
Also offering easy dessert solutions to families this year is Pinnacle Foods Group LLC, Cherry Hill, N.J., with its Duncan Hines Oven Ready! Homestyle Brownies. These frozen brownies come prepackaged in an oven-ready pan. They bake in less than 30 minutes and leave behind no dirty dishes, Pinnacle says. Varieties include Chocolate Fudge and Chocolate Chip.
Also saving consumers time this year is new refrigerated Pillsbury Brownie Batter from General Mills Inc., Minneapolis. Traditional Chocolate Fudge and Triple Chocolate Chunk varieties come in 16.5-oz. refrigerated tubes and can be spread in a pan, baked and ready-to-serve in minutes.
Sweets aren’t all the refrigerated and frozen bakery category has to offer. In fact, IRI data indicate that dollar sales in the frozen fresh baked bread/roll/biscuit subcategory were up 1.7 percent during the 52-weeks ending Jan. 27, 2008. Meanwhile, refrigerated bread/roll dough and refrigerated pastry/dumpling dough also saw dollar sales increases this year.
Here, as with sweets, fast preparation times are part of the consumer appeal, says R&FF’s sister publication Refrigerated & Frozen Foods Retailer (RFFR). Rhodes Bake-N-Serve CEO Ken Farnsworth Jr. told RFFR, “That is why our AnyTime rolls have become so popular. Consumers can have homemade quality in 30 minutes. Our new multi-grain rolls are also selling well as more consumers look for whole grain options.”
Late last year, Rhodes also added garlic butter pull-aparts and sticky buns to its lineup. These new offerings come frozen in an aluminum pan - ready to bake.
New savory products from Pillsbury include Place ‘n Bake Crescent Rounds. Launched last summer, the rounds come in a refrigerated tube and bake into eight dinner rolls in 10 to 12 minutes.
During the past year, Pepperidge Farm, Norwalk, Conn., also rolled out new products that include premium frozen toast varieties, reports R&FF’s sister publication Snackfood & Wholesale Bakery (SF&WB). This product comes in Roasted Garlic, Romano and Herb and Cracked Pepper Parmesan varieties.
Tim Hassett, senior vice president and general manager of the fresh and frozen bakery business for Pepperidge Farm, told SF&WB Editor Dan Malovany that the company has been very pleased by the incremental sales of its premium frozen toasts. He added that they also have been impressed by consumer response to its frozen artisan bread and rolls, which are available in select retailers.
“We have received a large volume of unsolicited praise from consumers on these products,” he said. “People really love them.”
The artisan products come in Hearty Wheat Dinner Rolls, French Demi-Baguettes, Sourdough Petite Loaves and Rosemary Olive Oil Petite Loaves.