Breakfast on the rise, frozen handhelds lead percentage growth

Supermarkets, restaurants stress protein, flavor and convenience to appeal to breakfast eaters.

April 16, 2014

Breakfast is taking multiple paths across America. Protein, portability and ethnic tastes are at the head of the pack.

Restaurant breakfast menu trends - which often pre-date what will eventually reach supermarkets – will be led this year by: ethnic-inspired breakfast items (Asian-flavored syrups, Chorizo scrambled eggs, and coconut milk pancakes); traditional ethnic breakfast items (huevos rancheros, shakshuka, and ashta); fresh fruit items; egg white omelettes and sandwiches; and yogurt and Greek yogurt parfaits, according to American Culinary Foundation chefs polled by the National Restaurant Association for its 2014 Culinary Forecast.

Among fast-feeders, the expanded Taco Bell breakfast menu is an aggressive bid to bite into McDonald’s breakfast sales, which reportedly account for about 20% of the giant’s annual revenue. Taco Bell has added bacon and sausage varieties of hand-held breakfast foods – the A.M. Crunchwrap, the Waffle Taco, the A.M Grilled Taco, the Flatbread Melt, and the Breakfast Burrito – as well as a Steak & Egg Burrito.

Nearly every item above shares a common element: Protein.

This dovetails with a 2014 trend forecast by SupermarketGuru Phil Lempert – that is, “Consumers will look to add more protein to their first meal, to live a healthy lifestyle without compromising taste and indulgence.  Look for more protein-rich and convenient breakfast options.”

Indeed, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health advises its students that “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day….People who skip breakfast are unlikely to make up their daily requirement for some vitamins and minerals that a simple breakfast would have provided.” It then urges students to “Pick up portable breakfast items when at the grocery store.  You should buy foods like fruit, low-fat yogurt, whole grain breakfast bars, or granola bars for those mornings when you have to eat breakfast on the go.”

Indeed, Millennials are known for on-the-go breakfasts, which is one reason these choices abound.

Dollar sales of frozen breakfast handhelds recently grew 17.18% on a 13.82% unit rise to cross the $1 billion threshold, according to Total U.S. Multi-Outlet (supermarkets, drug stores, mass market retailers, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains) data for the 52 weeks ended January 26, 2014, from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. 

This was the highest percentage advance of all breakfast food categories in these outlets. Nutritional/intrinsic health value bars rose 13.95% to $1.96 billion on a 9.67% unit gain in the same period, but other breakfast food segments had single-digit growth or declined.

Many channels and eateries vie for the breakfast dollar. A recent CVS circular devotes a half-page to “Breakfast Savings!”, featuring coffee, milk, cold cereal and cereal bars, juice, dried fruit and oatmeal. In addition, c-stores, coffee chains, independent sandwich shops, fast-feeders and fast-casual eateries want in – and all offer faster in-and-out visits than a supermarket does.  

Therefore, F3 urges retailers to highlight “breakfast” wherever these items are in the store – frozen, refrigerated or shelf-stable areas – and to get them onto shoppers’ lists early in the trip plan. Message about the newer, faster-growing options such as frozen portable handhelds, as well as classic items such as baked goods, waffles, eggs, milk, juice, fruit, yogurt, Greek yogurt, coffee, tea, oatmeal, cheese, cold cereals and snack bars.

Two more areas of high-protein breakfasts could soon emerge - mixing beans or yogurt with cereals, omelettes or handhelds.

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