Consumers today find themselves busier than ever, but in different ways. Households are preparing more meals between errands and longer hours on Zoom calls until their offices reopen. That’s why they keep reaching for convenient, microwavable and bakeable handheld snacks and meals from their freezers ranging from breakfast sandwiches and calzones to Caribbean meat patties and Indian naan toasters filled with a variety of street food flavors.

IRI reported that handheld entrees like frozen burritos and Hot Pockets grew 4.9% to nearly $3.2 billion, handheld breakfast items jumped 13.5% to $2.2 billion and appetizers surged 13.5% to $3 billion for the 52 weeks ended May 16, 2021. Together, these three categories of frozen foods account for around $8.4 billion in annual sales, and they’re a huge opportunity for bakers and equipment manufacturers. That’s because the main carriers for these grab-and-go items are buns, flatbreads, English muffins, bagels, biscuits and sliced panini bread, to name a few.

Bakers just need to produce these baked foods and ship them in bulk to frozen food manufacturers that then assemble the packaged handheld meals for retail freezer cases. How easy is that compared to direct-store delivery? In other instances, sheeted or laminated doughs are filled with a variety of sauces, cheese and protein to create frozen breakfast, lunch or evening products. Moreover, the demand for better-for-you handheld snacks and entrees — ranging from clean label and gluten-free to wholesome grains, added protein and vegan — provides even greater potential for growth.

By thinking of baked foods as a component of every meal occasion, bakers can expand their businesses in this multi-billion-dollar market.