Capture the Breakfast Crowd

Ninety-three percent of Americans believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, reports the USDA. But only 44 percent of American adults eat breakfast every day For retailers, this reality presents a large opportunity to capture these irregular breakfast eaters — especially as consumers increasingly opt not to buy “expensive” to-go breakfast foods from foodservice operators and instead prepare breakfast at home to save money, says Christine Bellamo, director of dairy and frozen at Daymon Worldwide, Stamford, Conn.

Retailers could be in a unique position to take back the breakfast food market with their store brand products, especially with the average cost of breakfast ingredients increasing by 24 percent in 2014, says Dave Olson, vice president of sales at ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb.

Creating an in-store experience for consumers, such as a breakfast bar, a grab-and-go station or even a meal solution center that inspires ideas and highlights new items and convenient solutions, could be one way to take back the market, Bellamo says.

Olson agrees.

“Because shoppers plan ahead and stock up on items for their weekday breakfasts, there is an opportunity to merchandise a variety of breakfast items together through the implementation of a breakfast zone,” he says.

And in merchandising, retailers should keep in mind that seasonal shifts affect breakfast trends. During seasonal shifts, they would do well to consider making changes to their assortment, Olson adds.

But it will likely take more than just smart merchandising for retailers to hold consumers’ attention; a makeover for store brand breakfast items could also be in order.

Conveniece, taste matter

Consumers are looking for convenient options that are healthful and feature innovative flavors, Bellamo says. And it’s not enough to have just one or two of these attributes; all three need to be present to get consumers to dial back in.

With more than half of consumers eating breakfast alone, especially at work or in the car, single-serve options and travel-friendly packaging will continue to be driving forces in successful new product offerings, she adds. For example, retailers might want to look into resealable packaging, heat-and-eat packaging or pouches that hold bite-size products as ways of making breakfast less of a hassle for consumers.

But no matter what the packaging type, a product has to taste good after preparation, says Ray Gadd, executive vice president with Los Angeles-based Flagship Food Group.

“The criteria today with frozen breakfast items is microwave reconstitution,” he says. “It has to taste great from a microwave or it is not going to be picked up and taken home by consumers.”

In terms of “hot” products on the market, breakfast sandwiches could be a real opportunity for retailers, says Justin Massa, CEO of Chicago-based Food Genius.

“Breakfast sandwiches are all about convenience and eating breakfast with one hand,” he says.

But it will take more than offering just the standard English muffin with a sausage patty and egg to get consumers to bite, Massa adds. He advises retailers to model their store brand products after successful items at fast-casual restaurants.

For example, instead of sandwiching fillings between two halves of an English muffin or a biscuit, retailers could consider doing so with breads such as ciabatta, brioche, focaccia or flatbread, which are currently popular at restaurants, Massa notes. And when it comes to breakfast sausage, retailers should consider chorizo — which is heating up on restaurant menus — as an alternative to the traditional offerings.

Breakfast burritos are another convenient option that could benefit from a complete makeover, Massa says. For inspiration, retailers could look to the national brand EVOL, which recently introduced four SKUs of breakfast burritos, including a spicy uncured bacon, egg, potato, jalapeno and cheddar burrito, and an uncured ham, egg, potato and cheddar burrito. The company also offers two healthful alternatives in its Lean & Fit line: egg white, spinach, roasted tomato, potato and cheddar, and chicken apple sausage, egg, smoked Gouda, caramelized onion and roasted potato.

Make them healthful

Speaking of healthful, consumers are seeking more natural, less-processed breakfast food items that provide additional health benefits, Bellamo says. Such offerings include products containing lean proteins such as turkey sausage and bacon, vegetarian options and low-carb or gluten-free products. All-natural and non-GMO products are also gaining in popularity among consumers, as are products containing meat substitutes.

This consumer interest in health applies to both hot and cold cereal as well. Global market researcher Mintel states in its October 2013 “Category Insight: Breakfast Cereals” report that more than half of North American consumers trust promised cereal benefits and think cereal is more healthful than other breakfast options. They also look for high-fiber, high-protein, vitamin- or nutrient-enriched, low-sugar and sustainable energy claims on cereal packaging.

Mintel adds that although a significant number of new products have been launched with whole-grain and high-fiber claims, product development opportunities also exist in high-protein and gluten-free cereals. From September 2012 to September 2013, only 9 percent of breakfast cereals launched in North America were touted as gluten-free. And only 2 percent were marked as high in protein. With 58 percent of U.S. consumers saying they wish cereal kept them full longer, high-protein cereals could find a real niche in the market, as protein is often linked with satiety.

So packaging that calls out healthful attributes could become an important asset for retailers, Olson says. Breakfast tends to be the healthiest eating occasion of the day, so consumers are looking for something to give a “good start” to their morning. Additionally, given the time constraints consumers experience in the morning, any messaging that makes it clear how easily the product can fit into consumers’ daily routines will peak their interest.

Do consider adding a breakfast zone to merchandise store brand products.

Don’t think “healthful” means just low-calorie; consumers want lean proteins and low-carb options too.

Do consider adding a high-protein cereal to keep consumers full longer.

Don’t be boring; add exciting ingredients such as chorizo or focaccia to store brand breakfast products.