C-store breakfast sandwich demand surging

by Andy Nelson
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Big Az breakfast sandwich
Tyson's Big Az sandwiches are substantially larger than other products in the category.
 

SPRINGDALE, ARK. — Breakfast — it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Demand for convenience store breakfast sandwiches is up not just in the morning but throughout the day, making the category a great launching pad for more robust sales throughout the sandwich category, said Nancy Todys, director of c-store and vending channel development for Tyson Foods, Inc.

Tyson offers its c-store customers three brand options when it comes to breakfast sandwiches: Hot ‘N’ Ready, Big Az and Jimmy Dean. Sandwiches from all three lines may be sold either packaged in c-store refrigerators or unpackaged and ready-to-eat in store warmers, Ms. Todys said.

Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich
Jimmy Dean sandwiches draw on the brand’s signature blend of savory seasonings that have helped make it one of America’s top breakfast sausage/sandwich brands.
 

Each of the three lines has its own distinctive characteristics, according to Tyson. Hot ‘N’ Ready’s broad product range, for instance, features five different types of bread. Big Az sandwiches are tailored for people with big appetites — the line’s oversized offerings are substantially larger than other products in the category. And Jimmy Dean sandwiches draw on the brand’s signature blend of savory seasonings that have helped make it one of America’s top breakfast sausage/sandwich brands.

The newest addition to the category is Hot ‘N’ Ready, a brand owned by AdvancePierre, which Tyson purchased this year. Tyson has upgraded Hot ‘N’ Ready packaging with a window, Ms. Todys said.

“What we’ve been seeing in consumer research is that there’s added value in seeing the product before you purchase it,” she said. “Consumers can see the quality, judge the freshness and see the size even better.”

Hot N Ready breakfast sandwich
Hot ‘N’ Ready’s product range features five different types of bread.
 

Another way in which Tyson differentiates its packaging in all three of its lines is to wrap items in paper, giving them a hand-wrapped look, Ms. Todys said.

“Just looking at it, you’d think it was made in the back of the store,” she said.   

Eby-Brown’s Wakefield Sandwich Co. division features 10 breakfast sandwiches marketed under the Wakefield brand, said Andy Batt, Wakefield’s vice-president of development. In addition, Eby-Brown, the largest privately-owned convenience store distributor in the United States, offers other national brands of breakfast sandwiches to meet its customers’ needs, including AdvancePierre products.

Wakefield breakfast sandwich
Eby-Brown’s Wakefield Sandwich Co. division features 10 breakfast sandwiches marketed under the Wakefield brand.
 

As consumers’ tastes change, so does Eby-Brown’s breakfast sandwich product roster, though the company’s core offerings continue to be the biggest sellers, Mr. Batt said.

“The Wakefield offering continues to evolve,” he said. “The most recent additions have been a chorizo and egg on a corn biscuit, Southern chicken biscuit and a vegetarian egg white frittata on whole wheat.”

Each new product was launched with the idea of widening the appeal of new flavor trends and catering to specific market segments, Mr. Batt said. And more products are sure to come — at 17% annual growth, the breakfast sandwich category is outpacing overall company growth, he said.

Wakefield breakfast sandwich
Eby-Brown’s "breakfast" c-store offerings are by no means limited to one day part.
 

Even with “breakfast” in the product title, Eby-Brown’s c-store offerings are by no means limited to one day part, Mr. Batt said. Fast-food chains like McDonald’s have made news in recent years by offering breakfast foods at different times of the day, but it’s hardly a novel concept for c-stores.

“Convenience stores have offered this for years, as customers could heat their breakfast sandwich purchase at any time of day,” Mr. Batt said.  

In addition to the stronger demand during all day parts, Tyson is closely tracking two other trends related to breakfast sandwiches, Ms. Todys said:  different types of bread and spicier flavors. The Hot ‘N’ Ready line alone, she said, features products made with biscuits, bagels, croissants, English muffins and, most recently, tortillas. When it comes to spicy, the new Big Az Western Omelet features pepper jack cheese, and Tyson is looking at other ways to add heat.

Big Az spicy omelette
Tyson's new Big Az Western Omelet features pepper jack cheese.
 

“We’re constantly watching trends, to help expand the market and keep our retailers up to date,” Ms. Todys said.

Merchandising is key to growing breakfast sandwich programs, Ms. Todys said. Tyson encourages its c-store partners to bundle sandwiches with coffee and other items, provide two-for-one deals and other promotions and get the word out about the category before consumers even enter the store, whether it’s signs on door windows or at the pump, billboards, TV or social media.
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