A. Elizabeth Sloan

Bet Your Bacon on Breakfast
From savory sandwiches void of traditional breakfast foods, to fruit flautas, breakfast pizzas, burritos, and calzones, the stodgy breakfast segment is finally breaking out of its mold.

At the same time, perennial favorites such as orange juice have been cleverly repositioned for healthy kids; milk and cereal combinations have been reinvented in bar and beverage forms; and pancakes and sausages are now wrapped “to go” on a stick. Eggs may be fortified with vitamin E and DHA or be organic (a $45-million segment, up 20% last year); the sausage may be made of seafood or soy; and donuts and coffee may be handmade or gourmet!

According to NPDFoodworld’s 2002 Breakfast in America report, 77% of all breakfasts are still eaten at home, compared to 49% of lunches and 75% of dinners. With at-home 1950s-style breakfasts back in vogue, consumption of eggs, sausage, and bacon has reached an all-time high, with the number of eatings per capita of all types of breakfast egg/omelette dishes at 33 in 2002 compared to 27 in 1998. On the average, 50 breakfast meals were skipped in 2002, nearing the high of 51 in 1998. Consumers age 18–34 years were most likely to skip breakfast—almost one out of every four, twice the national average.

In-home breakfasts continue, however, to lose share to other eating venues, and brown bagging is now at a 10-year high. While restaurant breakfasts—8% of total breakfast meals—are at an all-time high, Convenience Store News’ 2002 Food Service Survey reported that breakfast sandwiches led the list of new foodservice items that 85% of operators are planning to offer in 2003.

The FoodService Director’s 2001 Grab and Go study found that portable breakfast items are among the items generating the most interest in university, hospital, school, and business foodservice, along with sandwich kits, veggies with dip, and nachos with dip. Conversely, bagels and muffins, fresh fruit, and yogurt showed a decline in sales in this segment last year.

According to the 1st-half 2002 Chain Account Menu Survey report, two mega-trends—big portion sizes and bold and spicy flavors—continue on breakfast-chain menus. Bickford’s new Sixteen Wheeler includes four each of eggs, pancakes, bacon strips, and sausage links. Friendly’s Southwestern Supermelt, including eggs, pepper jack cheese, savory sausage, peppers, onions, and ranchero con queso, offers a zesty way to start the day.

Seafood, fried fish, chicken, and spicy ground beef continue to gain ground. Country Kitchen’s new Spinach Omelette contains seasoned ground beef, four Wisconsin cheeses, sour cream, picante sauce, and green onions. French toast is drawing attention by using artisan breads, less-common fruits, and dessert like flavors. Copeland’s now offers a Stuffed French Toast Bananas Foster, and T.G.I. Friday offers a Spiced Apple Baked version.

Keep an eye on the leading dessert flavors at breakfast: chocolate, apple, strawberry, cherry, banana, raspberry, lime, coconut, and lemon. But fresh appears to be best, as witnessed by the astounding success of breakfast-driven Panera Bread and the Atlanta Bread Co., whose sales jumped 51% and 40%, respectively, in 2001.

But the big news is still the demand for grab and go. General Mills’ Milk ’n Cereal bars were among the largest leaders in the $2.4-billion bar category, up 44%, along with Nature Valley bars (up 43%) and Clif Luna bar (up 45%), according to Information Resources. And there’s plenty of room for more, with the bar category expected to enjoy $1 billion more in sales by 2006.

In addition, the $1-billion-plus liquid nutritionals category is virtually devoid of breakfast-oriented drinks. Mass-market yogurt drink sales reached $103 million, up 25%, according to Cneilsen, and General Mills’ Yoplait Nouriche, with 20 vitamins, minerals, and protein, is well positioned to fill this niche. Soy/juice combinations such as Adrmore Farms’ Soy Juicy! are also coming on strong. And don’t forget kids— flavored milk outsells white milk in school vending machines 9 to 1.

While marketers who find just the right twist on traditional breakfast favorites, by making them portable and quick, will enjoy strong sales, the real opportunity is in introducing nontraditional items into the early morning meal. We can take a lesson from Miami chefs, who have introduced grilled pressed Cuban bread sandwiches—containing thin slices of roast pork and ham, melted cheese, pickles, and mustard—into the early morning daypart. From savory salmon spreads to panini-style egg sandwiches, the options are endless. The market for eye-opening coffees, expresso, chai, and lattes continues to explode. Even Dunkin’ Donuts is now selling its own signature ground coffee at retail. And whatever happened to bite-sized when it comes to breakfast? Clearly, the need for speed in the morning is outpacing the availability of new products to meet this skyrocketing demand

Contributing Editor
President, Sloan Trends & Solutions, Inc.
Escondido, Calif.