BROOKLYN, New York. – Belgian Boys had a busy but pivotal 2022. Brioche French Toast was added to the brand’s crepes, pancakes and waffle products, all made in Belgium. The brand also added 2,000 additional US points of sale in the first half of the year, bringing total distribution to over 7,000 stores. Much of the growth is being attributed to retailers finally being willing to sell Belgian boy’s products in refrigerated display cases instead of freezers, which is common in Europe but not the United States.
Anouck Gotlib, Chief Executive Officer, founded the company in 2015 with her husband. She’s gone through numerous meetings with investors, partners, and retail executives to pitch the idea of moving her products to the cold store, but she always walked away with the same answer: No — until now.
“Perhaps the times weren’t right yet,” Ms. Gotlib said. “But then other products started showing up in retail fridges, from protein bars to baby formula. Breakfast was a logical next step.”
It started with egg bites. Ms. Gotlib saw this opportunity and knew she had to act.
“We’ve helped retailers reinvent the breakfast destination,” Ms. Gotlib said. “Costco was the first to venture into the store’s refrigerated section with a beta test of the mini pancakes. It performed better than expected, showing a five times faster sales velocity.”
Belgian Boys entered the US market with a mission to bring European-style food into the mainstream. Ms. Gotlib knew that staying in the freezer would have less foot traffic than the coveted shelf space in the fridge.
“I don’t like being told ‘no,'” she said.
Her persistence paid off. Four years after the Costco test, Walmart, Target, Meijer, Whole Foods, Kroger, and Fresh Market have all set up a chilled aisle breakfast area anchored by Belgian boys. According to the company, the brand has grown by more than 270% in the first half of 2022.
The popularity of the frozen breakfast section dates back to the post-WWII economic boom, when mainstream America began buying electric fridge-freezers. This encouraged the development of frozen orange juice concentrate. And when frozen waffles were being developed in the 1950s, having them near the orange juice made sense. The development of other practical products for the morning grew the frozen breakfast department and retailers and shoppers became accustomed to this merchandising. But today, most orange juice is sold ready-to-drink in the refrigerator, not far from eggs, yogurt, and milk.
“Although breakfast is part of our daily routine, Americans have been conditioned to stock up on frozen breakfast items that you would typically find chilled in Belgium,” Ms Gotlib said. “People enjoy eggs, bacon and sausage for breakfast, so why would you walk through the store to find complementary items?”
The products have a refrigerated shelf life of 30 days and take only a few minutes to prepare in the microwave.
“The waffles are individually wrapped and don’t need to be heated,” Ms. Gotlib said. “That offers a lot of potential for other channels. We are helping to pave the way for a chilled breakfast destination, offering consumers products that are great in taste and quality of ingredients.”