Breakfast Foods Move Beyond a Single Daypart


Breakfast is on the move. These days, it’s an all-day way of eating, as people spoon cereal, toss a muffin into a backpack, pick up an egg-cheese-and-veggie burrito or crank up the juicer at virtually any time.

Industry insights back up the notion that as the clock has opened up for once-morning-only meals, the timing is right for new ways of developing and selling breakfast foods and beverages, both in packaged products and in supermarket-prepared meals. According to the NPD Group, based in Port Washington, N.Y., the consumption of breakfast and morning snacks at home and away from home will grow 5 percent through 2019, outpacing the expected overall population growth of 4 percent.

In its 2016 “What’s for Breakfast” report, Chicago-based research firm Mintel found that consumers were open to the idea of breakfast foods for lunch and dinner. Earlier this year, Forbes magazine listed “Breakfast, updated” as one of the top five food trends for 2017, a trend that encompasses all-day breakfast as well as different and trendy breakfast foods.

Phil Lempert, author and speaker at, says that the expansion of breakfast stems from a variety of lifestyle shifts.

“Not only have people changed the model of working from 9 to 5 and are now working all day, but breakfast foods -- in particular, egg dishes -- are easy and relatively inexpensive,” he points out. “That appeals to Millennials, who like to customize and like value.”

Prepared Foods

The all-hours drive for convenience and concurrent clamor for choice are evident in the expansion of prepared breakfast foods in many traditional and specialty markets. Whether offering something as simple as a breakfast sandwich and coffee, setting up a hot-food bar with different egg-based dishes and build-your-own oatmeal, or adding more breakfast-menu items to a grocerant area, stores are recognizing and, in some cases, latching onto the success that many quick-service restaurants have had with breakfast foods.

In its most recent data on this segment, The Nielsen Perishables Group reports that sales of deli prepared breakfast foods are up 12 percent in dollars and 5.5 percent in volume over the past year; much of that growth, according to Schaumburg, Ill.-based Nielsen’s research, has been driven by items like breakfast sandwiches and quiches, both of which ticked up double digits in growth and volume.

“Convenience is likely the most important attribute consumers want from their grocery store when it comes to breakfast products, especially if it will rival weekday on-the-go options,” observes Sarah Schmansky, director at Chicago-based Nielsen Fresh. “However, variety in the assortment, including a little bit of indulgence for weekend breakfast occasions, while having healthful options for during the week, is also important.”

To be sure, many supermarkets tout breakfast offerings in their in-store cafés, hot-food bars and grocerants.

Roche Bros. stores, in the Boston area, offer breakfast foods like egg dishes in addition to lunch and dinner items. Many Whole Foods Market locations set out breakfast dishes with a natural, organic or better-for-you twist. The breakfast menu at a Lunds & Byerlys store in Roseville, Minn., offers diner-like items with an upscale flair, such as Irish oat pancakes and a Smokehouse Scramble consisting of eggs, hash browns, sautéed onions, mushrooms and wild rice sausage with hollandaise sauce, along with beverages like a morning mimosa. That store also has a special senior menu with smaller portions and prices.

According to Lempert, having ready-to-eat breakfast foods in grocerants or other parts of the store is a way to maximize sales and kick off a profitable day. “I think grocerants need to look at expanding beyond having Starbucks and Caribou Coffee, and really promoting breakfast in those areas,” he advises.

Bill Bishop, chief architect at consulting firm Brick Meets Click, in Barrington, Ill., says that there’s a host of merchandising opportunities for prepared breakfast foods at supermarkets, including items that can be eaten beyond the morning hours.

“You have to think about what physical changes you can make in the store to be prepared to make the breakfast experience top of mind,” he observes. “If you’re going to major in breakfast, it can be 7 to 10 a.m., but how do you pull back from that for people who come in the store later in the day? I think that we’ll see more flexibility in the dayparts, and everyone who sells food for an eating occasion needs to update the way they do that.”

Looking at different days of the week, as well as different dayparts, is another approach. “We have seen some retailers get creative on the weekend by leveraging their hot-bar areas to promote breakfast offerings for those that don’t necessarily want to make a big breakfast in-home. This is seen mainly on holiday weekends,” notes Schmansky.

On another note, Bishop says that supermarkets can borrow a page from convenience stores. “When you look at who has been successful with breakfast, c-stores have done a great job with a combination of things, including easy access to quick coffee and something that’s edible in the car without messing yourself up too much,” he remarks.

One example is Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle’s GetGo stores, which allow consumers to fuel up in more ways than one. In addition to packaged snacks and fuel, GetGo cafés sell fresh made-to-order breakfast menu items like breakfast subs and burritos, breakfast sandwiches, flatbreads, and oatmeal topped with dried fruit, nuts and brown sugar, all of which are customizable.

Healthy Breakfast Choices

As many grocers explore and add prepared breakfast foods, supermarkets are also seeking to ramp up sales of breakfast foods in traditional spots like the in-store bakery and in the center store.

To generate excitement in a competitive market, more innovative and on-trend products are showing up in these areas of the store. Bagels, muffins and doughnuts remain breakfast food staples in the in-store bakery, for example, but increasingly, shoppers are looking for baked goods that meet their lifestyle and taste demands.

In its “What’s In Store 2017” report, the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA) reports top trends such as the ongoing growth of organic products and clean labeling, along with more “free-from” claims and “flexitarian” options. report also points to trending bakery ingredients like functional flour and sprouted grains.

Indeed, better-for-you options are on point right now for a variety of breakfast foods. The fact that many traditional breakfast foods are high in protein bodes well for these types of products. “The thing about eggs and some meat is the high level of protein, as consumers recognize that protein is important,” affirms Lempert.

To Lempert's point, several brands have expanded or launched products with protein-rich ingredients. Sweet Earth Natural Foods, based in Moss Landing, Calif., offers a Protein Lover breakfast burrito with 20 grams of protein, as well as a Get Cultured breakfast burrito with probiotics, protein and fiber.

The clamor for high protein foods and natural ingredients likewise was a driver behind El Monterey’s Simply Egg, Turkey Sausage and Cheese breakfast burritos, according to Rachel P. Cullen, president of Ruiz Food Products Inc., in Dinuba, Calif. “They are made with real scrambled eggs and fresh-baked whole grain tortillas, offer high protein and real ingredients delivering great taste and convenience,” she says.

The push for healthier eating has also affected the cereal category, too. “If you look at the smaller cereal companies who are doing well, it's because they are focused on nutrients people are looking for in breakfast,” points out Lempert. “For the last 50 years, mainstream cereal hasn’t evolved – 50 years ago, they saw it as entertainment, not nutrition.”

There has been movement in the cereal category among major brands. Minneapolis-based General Mills recently added Cinnamon Toast Crunch varieties with no artificial flavors, colors from artificial sources or high-fructose corn syrup. For its part, Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. recently debuted a Special K Nourish Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola that’s a good source of fiber.

Beyond the big companies, brands newer to the cereal industry are shaking things up with better-for-you options. Back to the Roots, an Oakland, Calif.-based organic food startup, offers cereal in a package that evokes a milk carton; among its offerings is an Organic Purple Corn Flakes cereal made with 100 percent organic, non-GMO purple corn from Minnesota, organic cane sugar from Florida and sea salt from the San Francisco Bay.

In addition to cereal, other recent product launches support the idea that better-for-you breakfast foods are in shoppers’ sights across a variety of product types.

Ozery Bakery, based in Vaughan, Ontario, offers Morning Rounds, toastable fruit-and-grain breakfast breads that are non-GMO, lower in sodium, vegan, and fat-, nut- and dairy free. “We looked at the bagel, English muffin and crumpet category and didn’t see a lot of innovation there. These Morning Rounds are portable and convenient, and you can have them toasted with butter, cream cheese or nut butter, or just as is, because they are infused with fruit,” explains Paul Vlahos, VP of sales, adding that a 70-calorie version was recently added to the line. Later this year, Ozery aims to shake up the market again with a vegan brioche.

Even basic American flapjacks are getting a healthy makeover. Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, based in Milwaukie, Ore., recently added protein pancake and waffle mix and Paleo pancake and waffle mix, both of which are high in protein. Further, Pamela’s Products, in Ukiah, Calif., has come out with five sprouted-grain pancake mixes.

In addition to smaller and boutique brands, established brands are switching things up when it comes to better-for-you profiles. Chicago-based Conagra Brands is introducing a new line of Marie Callender’s loaf cakes, made with no artificial flavors or preservatives.

“Consumers have told us that what they really want is an easy, convenient solution for baked goods that taste just like homemade and are made with the same basic ingredients that they can find in their own pantry,” says Casey Richards, brand director.

New Breakfast Products

The changing nature of morning meal consumption – increasingly on the go or packed to go – has led to new product development and competition from other types of food products. An early 2017 report from London-based Euromonitor, with U.S. offices in Chicago, noted that busy consumers are eschewing sit-down breakfasts for portable snacks such as snack/nutrition bars, muesli and Greek yogurt.

Meanwhile, globally inspired ingredients are lending fresh flavors to breakfast fare. In its latest report on breakfast trends, the Chicago-based American Egg Board highlighted the influence of Asian flavors on breakfast items, noting that Millennials and Generation Z consumers enjoy Asian products like sriracha, fermented foods and chili sauces that work well with classic breakfast comfort foods.

“Many common breakfast foods -- like eggs -- offer a mild flavor base to layer on the salty, tangy and spicy flavors of Asian cuisine,” remarks John Howeth, the board’s SVP, foodservice and egg product marketing.

Several brands that offer breakfast-style products are going international with new items. Earlier this summer, General Mills rolled out Oui French-style yogurt under the Yoplait brand umbrella, inspired by Yoplait’s French product line. The yogurt is sold in a glass container, in which the yogurt was cultured in a “pot set” approach.

Bolder flavors – which may or may not be ethnic in origin – are also a hallmark of many new breakfast products. The Eckrich brand, from Virginia-based Smithfield, for example, spotlights bolder flavors in its American Regionals Line, with items like serrano brown-sugar ham and honey bourbon ham.

Finally, bringing it full-day circle, there’s no time like the present to promote the next day’s breakfast. “The main way to ensure customers think about the grocery store for breakfast options is to make sure you have the product when the consumer is in the store, so they know you are a destination, whether it’s for an individual breakfast or office/family get-together,” advises Schmansky.

She continues: “Have breakfast options available during the early-evening rush hours for the next day, like doughnuts, bagels or yogurt parfaits, so consumers don’t have to stop on their way in to work, and ensure a large bakery breakfast display bright and early during the weekend.”

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