A. Elizabeth Sloan

Breakfast is back in business big time. The Nielsen Co. reports that total breakfast food sales hit $10.4 billion in supermarkets for the year ended 7/9/2011, up 4.7% in unit sales over last year.

On average, consumers ate breakfast 5.3 days a week in 2011; 52% never skipped breakfast, according to the Food Marketing Institute’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report. Most important, the NPD Group’s Future of Eating in the U.S. report projects that breakfast will be among the fastest-growing eating occasions between 2010 and 2018.

But it’s far from breakfast as usual. The 2010 Gallup Study of Breakfast found that 20% of workers brought breakfast foods from home; an equal number brought coffee/morning beverages.

At restaurants, breakfast traffic remained flat through the third quarter of 2011, according to NPD/CREST. However, just over four in 10 consumers visited fast food restaurants for weekday breakfasts, up from one-third in 2009, per Technomic’s 2011 Consumer Breakfast Trend Report.

Handheld breakfast items are one of the best-sellers in the frozen case, up 6.2% in unit sales in supermarkets, according to Nielsen. Breakfast sandwiches are the fifth-most-popular sandwich ordered in the United States, according to Technomic’s 2010 Sandwich Consumer Trend Report. Einstein Brothers Bagels now has Egg Paninis, Bagel Thins Eggwhite Sandwiches, and Maple Oatmeal Egg Sandwiches on the menu.

Minis have entered the a.m. daypart. Jimmy Dean’s Jimmy D’s Minis offer two small turkey sausage croissants for 230 calories; Kellogg’s introduced Pop Tarts Mini Crisps. Keebler’s Granola Fudge Bars give a new twist to breakfast sweet goods. Why not offer mini indulgent breakfast pastries or unique breakfast cookies?

Super convenience remains key at breakfast. Pancake and waffle Batter Blaster, which comes in a whipped cream-style can, makes home-cooked breakfasts a snap. Eggland’s Best offers ready-to-eat Hard-Cooked & Peeled  Eggs, which are great for brown-bagging.

Nielsen reports that frozen waffles/pancakes/French toast saw the largest sales increases among supermarket breakfast foods, up 10.3%, followed by frozen/refrigerated breakfasts, up 6%; granola/yogurt bars, up 5.3%; and natural/granola cereal, also up 5.3%.

Although unit sales of ready-to-eat cereal fell 3.7%, the cereal industry is far from stagnant. Nature’s Path Love Crunch granola comes in taste-tempting Dark Chocolate and Red Berry and Carrot Cake varieties. Infant and toddler breakfast products are another hot category. Beech-Nut’s Homestyle Steam Cooked Oatmeal for toddlers in fruity flavors and Gerber Graduates Breakfast Buddies are among the new additions.

It’s time to upgrade the breakfast experience. According to the Hartman Group’s 2010 Eating Occasion Compass, a significant number of consumers are taking the time to seek out a sophisticated food experience at breakfast time. American Culinary Federation chefs polled in the National Restaurant Assn.’s October 2011 What’s Hot survey named ethnic-inspired breakfast items as the top breakfast trend for 2012. Traditional ethnic breakfast items (e.g., huevos rancheros and the Israeli egg dish shakshuka), fresh fruit breakfasts, and French toast/stuffed French toast were other up-and-coming trends. Seafood breakfast items (e.g., crab cakes and fried oysters), Italian breakfast sandwiches, traditional non-egg sandwiches in the early morning daypart, and chicken/turkey bacon are also emerging trends.

Heirloom and nontraditional eggs (e.g., duck, ostrich, and emu), artisan/specialty bacon, Greek yogurt, crepes, and the use of colored/ specialty potatoes and root vegetables in hash browns have high appeal to foodie restaurant patrons.

High protein breakfast foods are about to take on superstar status. New findings indicate that consuming about 30 g of protein at each meal optimizes muscle growth and weight management. The typical protein distribution currently is 10 g or less at breakfast, 15 g at lunch, and 65 g at dinner.

Those trying to manage their weight cite breakfast as the most important meal of the day, according to Packaged Facts’ 2010 Weight Management Trends in the U.S. report. General Mills set a new pace with its Fiber One 80 Calories cereal.

Drinks that eat like a meal such as Jamba Juice’s Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits are a good source of protein and fiber. In addition, nuts are bringing protein and more flavors to the breakfast daypart. Kelloggowned Kashi introduced Nut Cluster Crunch, aimed at providing a wholesome morning energy boost. Probiotic cereals have become increasingly common; New England Naturals granola comes in Antioxidant, Probiotic,  and Omega, Hemp & Flax varieties, among others.

Finally, breakfast remains a big opportunity for gluten-free items; Kellogg’s introduced Rice Krispies Gluten Free cereal this past year.


A. Elizabeth Sloan,
Contributing Editor
President, Sloan Trends Inc., Escondido, Calif.
[email protected]