MARSHALL, MINN. — The Schwan Food Co. is extending the distribution of its Edwards frozen pie brand to the western United States. With a strong position in the eastern portion of the country, the company has decided 2014 is the time to drive category news and grow the brand’s reach.

Only a few major brands compete in the frozen pie category. ConAgra Foods has its Marie Callender’s and Banquet brands, Sara Lee has its line of products, and The Schwan Food Co. has the Edwards and Mrs. Smith’s brands.

In 2012, news in the category was driven by ConAgra’s effort to push the Marie Callender’s pie brand east, said Jon Wiersum, vice-president of desserts and meals for the Schwan’s Consumer Brands business unit, and in 2014 news will be driven by the Edwards brand’s western expansion.

Jon Wiersum

“Edwards has a unique product and a distinctive proposition,” Mr. Wiersum said.  “It is the fastest growing brand of cream pie in the country.”

The Edwards brand features 14 varieties of frozen whole pies and 14 varieties of frozen dessert Singles, which are portion-controlled items that feature one or two slices per package.

“Overall, the frozen bakery desserts category is about a $900 million category and of that pies make up about 61%. Cakes make up 13%, cheesecakes make up another 13% and then you have some smaller segments like strudels and things like that,” Mr. Wiersum said.

He describes the Edwards core consumer as someone who tends to be younger than other frozen dessert users and who has a busy family life.

“They tend to be women,” Mr. Wiersum said, “but not exclusively so. They spend their day taking care of other people and at the end of the day they want a moment of ‘me’ time to treat themselves to something special.”

With the brand’s expansion west, The Schwan Food Co. will be supporting the effort with an advertising campaign that positions Edwards pies as indulgent treats.

“The (advertising) hook is that Edwards is one of the great wonders of the world in terms of delivering luscious layers of deliciousness,” Mr. Wiersum said. “I mentioned earlier our insight that our consumers feel like they spend the day taking care of people and that by the end of the day, once the dishes are done and the kids are in bed, they want a special moment of personal time; they want a personal reward.”

Mr. Wiersum described the brand’s flavor innovation as old favorites with a twist.

“We take our peanut butter pie and put bits of Reese’s on top,” he said. “We offer a coconut creme flavor with pieces of Mounds on top.”

This year the company will be a introducing New York Style Cheesecake variety.

Edwards New York Style Cheesecake

“This is a flavor we have offered in our Singles line for a long time,” Mr. Wiersum said.

Looking ahead, Mr. Wiersum sees several opportunities in the category, ranging from ethnic flavors to retail expansion beyond traditional supermarkets and mass merchandisers.

“This is an exciting category and it is an exciting time for the Edwards brand,” he said. “As we grow this business we will also focus on new areas of opportunity in an effort to give our consumers affordable luxuries.”