Johnsonville Omelet Sausage
Consumers cravings for protein and flavor adventure are driving innovation of protein-dense foods designed for convenience.

Wake up and smell the bacon (or sausage). That’s what’s trending during the breakfast daypart. Today’s consumers know that protein is a great way to start the day and they are embracing all types of breakfast meats and formats. Like other dayparts, consumers also crave flavor adventure in the morning. Meat and poultry processors are stepping up to the occasion.

“Today’s consumers seek simplicity on their approach to breakfast. They want no fuss, no drama, no confusion and no time wasted,” said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts, Rockville, Maryland. “For many, breakfast choices involve removing pain points that could clog the flow of their day and weighing breakfast choices in terms of value for time. In each case, cost lurks in the background, since the breakfast someone normally has is not a splurge or a special occasion. It’s part of the weekly budget for everyday spending. But simplicity drives choice.”

This is driving innovation of protein-dense foods designed for dashboard dining, as well as heat-and-eat meals for convenience. Meats for both formats must be properly designed to deliver full flavor without worries of off flavors developing over time, especially in foods held under heat lamps, such as at convenience stores. Typically, such warmed-over flavor can be minimized through the inclusion of antioxidants.

When it comes to adding flavors to meats, namely breakfast sausages and patties, oftentimes lipid-based inclusions are used, as they are designed to protect against the elements, such as heat, light and oxygen. They can also be designed to prevent moisture migration and break down. The movement of moisture can go in both directions, inclusion to meat matrix or meat matrix to inclusion. Too much movement in either direction results in product breakdown.

Such inclusions come in a range of sizes, with size influencing flavor distribution and visual effect in the finished product. Meat products with lipid-based inclusions have been found to withstand panfrying, baking and microwaving. Higher-sugar content inclusions can undergo caramelization during dry-heat cooking, which may add an extra flavor dimension, as in a maple inclusion for a breakfast sausage. Inclusions can also deliver smoke flavors, which add a touch of grill flavor without needing to grill. They can be designed to carry ethnic flavors, providing familiar breakfast meats with an adventurous twist.

Moe's breakfast bowls
Bold flavors of the Southwest can be found in the frozen food section of grocery stores with breakfast bowls by Moe’s Southwest Grill.

Recent innovations

Moe’s Southwest Grill, the fast-casual restaurant chain featuring fresh, flavorful Southwestern food, is bringing its bold flavors to the frozen food section of grocery stores nationwide through a partnership with Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Mich. New Moe’s Breakfast Bowls contain a minimum of 12 grams of protein and are made without any artificial flavors or colors.

The line includes Chorizo & Eggs (eggs, cilantro lime rice, hormone-free pork chorizo, black beans, pico de gallo and queso sauce), Chorizo Benedict (eggs, Yukon gold potatoes, hormone-free pork chorizo, pico de gallo, jalapeno lime hollandaise and avocado) and Chicken Chilaquiles (eggs with hormone-free pulled chicken atop a bed of tortilla chips and pinto beans, with salsa, queso and cilantro).

“The Southwest flavor profile is growing in appeal, but until now, not widely available in the breakfast category,” said Kat Cole, chief operating officer and president, Focus Brands, the parent company of Moe’s, Atlanta. “Moe’s Breakfast Bowls are meeting the demand for better-for-you, flavorful options for a high protein breakfast or breakfast-as-snack option.”

Chili's breakfast scramble
Bellisio Foods Inc., Duluth, Minnesota, has a partnership with the Chili’s fast-casual chain to produce branded frozen meals.

Bellisio Foods Inc., Duluth, Minnesota, has a partnership with the Chili’s fast-casual chain and has been producing branded frozen meals for some time. The company recently added the Breakfast Sausage Scramble to its lineup. It is made with eggs, roasted red potatoes, seasoned pork sausage and Southwest-style salsa.

In the category of breakfast meats, Chelsea, Massachusetts-based al fresco, a company of Kayem Foods, offers a fully cooked apple maple chicken sausage. This refrigerated product is made with dried apple pieces and real maple syrup.


Johnsonville French Toast flavored breakfast sausage
Ground pork serves as the foundation for multiple flavors, including French Toast.

Johnsonville, Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, has a new Western omelet breakfast sausage in distribution in Canada. Starting with a base of ground pork, this sausage packs in onion, green bell pepper, cheese, scrambled egg and spices that would be included in a Western omelet. In the States, the company has a new raw breakfast sausage link flavor: French Toast.

There’s even dried portable meat designed for early-day taste buds. Jack Link’s, Minong, Wisconsin, recently rolled out four bacon and sausage breakfast items under the Jack Link’s A.M. label. The products are infused with the ingredients associated with savory and hearty hot breakfast skillets.


Jack Links Breakfast sausage and bacon
Jack Link’s seized an opportunity to expand into a new daypart with bacon and breakfast sausage products.

For example, the original dried breakfast sausage builds off pork’s naturally sweet flavor with herbs such as sage and black pepper. It also contains real applesauce, which contributes flavor, humectancy and some organic acid for shelf life management. The hot and spicy variation kicks the original sausage up a notch with the inclusion of extra black and red pepper. Then there’s applewood breakfast bacon, which is salty, sweet and smoky all at one time, and brown sugar and maple-flavored breakfast bacon.

“As the pioneer of the meat snacks category, we’re always driving the category forward through innovation to meet the needs of our consumers,” said Tom Dixon, chief marketing officer. “We saw an opportunity to expand into a new daypart by adding breakfast items to our portfolio for the first time.”

There are all types of hand-held breakfast foods being designed for the convenience-store channel. Earlier this year, AdvancePierre Foods, Cincinnati, introduced three BIG AZ breakfast sandwiches that can be sold hot from a sandwich warmer or microwaved on demand from the cold case. Varieties are Double Sausage & Cheese Biscuit, Biscuit Stacker and Western Omelet.

The BIG AZ Double Sausage & Cheese Biscuit and BIG AZ Biscuit Stacker both feature a big, flakey home-style biscuit. The Double Sausage & Cheese Biscuit includes two pork sausage patties and two slices of American cheese. The Biscuit Stacker is filled with a pork sausage patty, smoky bacon, scrambled egg patty and a slice of American cheese. The BIG AZ Western Omelet features a Frittata egg patty with ham, onion and red and green peppers and a slice of Pepperjack cheese in a flour tortilla wrap. The BIG AZ Double Sausage & Cheese Biscuit and Biscuit Stacker have a 14-day refrigerated shelf life, and the Western Omelet has a seven-day refrigerated shelf life.


The Donut breakfast sandwich
A cake donut is topped with savory breakfast ingredients in the The Donut Breakfast Sandwich.

Land Mark Products Inc., Milford, Iowa, is rolling out Day’n Night Bites The Donut Breakfast Sandwich. As the name suggests, a cake donut serves as the carrier for a sausage patty, egg and cheese. The company also now offers calzones, including two breakfast varieties. There’s a sausage and gravy stuffed option, as well as a three-meat (bacon, ham and sausage) and egg variety. 

Dinuba, California-based Ruiz Foods is introducing breakfast empanadas. These light and flaky crust sandwiches are filled with scrambled eggs, seasoned sausage, diced potatoes and cheese.