What's for breakfast? Reinventing the first meal of the day

Consumers prefer homemade breakfast to ready-to-eat packaged goods, Datassential found

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers prefer homemade breakfast to RTE packaged goods

Related tags Breakfast

When it comes to breakfast, the vast majority of Americans want something quick and easy at home, but surprisingly most people prefer to make their first meal of the day “from scratch” instead of consuming a ready-to-eat or heat-and-serve consumer packaged good, according to Datassential research. 

“Two-thirds of Americans eat breakfast each day and … it’s overwhelmingly an at-home meal,” ​according to Datassential analysts Jennifer Aranas and Brian Darr.

Of the consumers who eat breakfast at home, 65% prefer making or assembling the meal from scratch, while only 17% prefer refrigerated or pre-packaged breakfast food, according to Datassential’s Breakfast Keynote report, originally published in July 2014.

Even fewer people – only 9% – prefer heating frozen food for breakfast at home and the same percentage prefer other ready-to-eat options, the report notes.

This does not bode well for CPG manufacturers operating in RTE breakfast categories, such as cereal, which has struggled in the past few years. Indeed, even though cold cereal and eggs tied for the most frequently eaten breakfast food, only 23% of consumers surveyed by Datassential said they ate them for the first meal of the day in the two weeks before the survey. (Read more HERE​ about how the cereal category can increase sales in the next five years.) 

What consumers eat for breakfast is highly fragmented with all other foods coming in under 11%, including breakfast sandwiches, bacon, sausage, yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, pancakes, bagels and others.

Also notable for CPG firms is that while quick and easy to prepare were important characteristics for breakfast, portability was not, according to the report. The study also suggested on-the-go options are not as critical as healthy options and cost.

Good news for branded breakfast CPGs though is that having preferred brands is a critical factor for many consumers, Datassential found. Other less critical factors include food that is upscale, natural and kid-friendly, the report noted.

Preferences for eating out

When consumers do eat breakfast out, the majority opt for a quick service restaurant that is fast and casual, such as a bakery or coffee shop, according to Datassential analysts.

They note that 38% of consumers eat breakfast away from home at least once per week, and that they are more likely to buy labor intensive foods or beverages that require specialized equipment.

For example, when eating out 48% of consumers chose breakfast sandwiches, 47% chose potatoes and 35% selected pancakes, all which take time to prepare. Alternatively, less than 15% of consumers selected more quickly prepared foods when eating out, such as fruit, yogurt and cold cereal, according to Datassential.

Consumers also are more likely to choose slushies, frozen sodas and fruit beverages when they go out verses when they eat at home – 54% compared to 46%. They also more likely will order specialty coffees out verses regular brewed coffee and hot tea, the data suggests.

Emerging trends for eating out

While Datassential’s research shows consumers are “strongly loyal to traditional breakfast favorites,”​ more than half are interested in emerging trends such as elevated comfort foods and better-for-you options.

Vegetable and protein smoothies also are gaining traction for breakfast with a third of consumers indicating they are interested in them, according to Datassential, which characterizes smoothies as a mega-trend moving from adoption to proliferation.

An emerging trend that the research firm characterizes as in the “inception”​ phase of the adoption cycle, is ethnically influenced breakfasts, in which 41% of people say they are interested. Flavors from Mexico and Asia are particularly trendy, including chipotle, poblano, cotija, kimchi, chutney and yuza, the research suggests.

Datassential’s predictions echo that of the American Egg Board and the National Restaurant Association for hot trends in 2015. (Read more HERE​ and HERE​.)

Whether and how quickly these trends move from inception to adoption, proliferation and ubiquity depends on how versatile the foods are across the day parts or applications; if they are embraced by large food chains; and if they tie into other macro trends, such as health and wellness, the researchers note.

Possible barriers that could hinder their adoption include sourcing constraints and if the ingredients or concepts can be offered in a relatable format, according to Datassential analysts. 

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