Taste preference and familiarity remain the most important drivers behind peoples' breakfast choices, according to a new study by market researcher the NPD Group.
The group's recently released Morning Need States Study reveals that these factors are even more important than convenience when it comes to morning meal and snack choices.
According to the new study, almost half of the consumers surveyed said they chose particular breakfast items because it was part of their routine. The same number of respondents said they chose to eat items that were their favorites.
At the same time, however, the general convenience trend that has gained momentum amongst American consumers' increasingly hectic lifestyles continues to impact breakfast choices.
Smaller and more portable 'mini-meals' have become more popular morning options for many Americans, with a large number of breakfast foods and drinks available today being quick, easy and portable, requiring only enough effort to simply open a package.
"More than half of our breakfast meals consist of just one or two items," said Dori Hickey, NPD's senior manager of product management.
"When we look at this by week part, we don't see a marked difference between weekdays and weekends. And over time, the number of items included in breakfast meals has fallen, from 2.46 in 1985 to 2.17 today," she added.
In fact, consumers viewed only 38 percent of their breakfast meals as a 'full or complete meal'; 45 percent of the time it was viewed as a 'small or mini meal', 5 percent of the time they described breakfast as more of a 'snack', and 11 percent of the time it was a beverage-only situation.
According to NPD's annual Eating Patterns in America report, some traditional breakfast items eaten at home have been declining in popularity over the past two decades. These include toast, eaten at 13 percent of in-home breakfasts in 2006, compared to 26 percent in 1985, and coffee, consumed 32 percent of the time this year compared to 44 percent two decades ago.
Products that have increased in popularity, while still only capturing a minor portion of the breakfast market, include granola or cereal bars, (from less than 1 percent in 1985 to 2 percent in 2006), yogurt (less than 1 percent and 2 percent respectively), and carbonated soft drinks (1 percent and 3 percent respectively). In the longer term, even eggs have shown improvement (from 10 percent in 1996 to 12 percent in 2006).
Currently, the products consumed most frequently for breakfast at home remain coffee and cold cereal, chosen 32 percent of the time. Fruit juice is third most popular at 26 percent, followed by milk (16 percent) and bread (15 percent).
Fruit comes next, at 13 percent, followed by eggs (12 percent), hot cereal (9 percent), bacon (4 percent) and hot tea (4 percent).
NPD's latest study was conducted in two waves that were fielded during March/April and June/July 2006, involving nearly 20,000 participants.