According to research from Packaged Facts, the idea that a healthy breakfast offers a strong start to the day is still “a cultural force” that offers manufacturers significant marketing ammunition – especially when paired with messages about self-care, responsibility and seizing the day’s full potential.
But as Packaged Facts Research Director David Sprinkle explains the healthy eating trend is a double edge sword for the packaged goods industry that has historically shaped what people eat for their first meal of the day.
“The good news for breakfast or breakfast marketers, whether they are food service or packaged foods, is that breakfast still has that most important meal of the day halo, relatively speaking. About a third of US adults do strongly agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and no other meal – lunch or dinner – gets anywhere near that kind of confidence,” he said.
“The not so great news is for the other side of that is even with that only about a quarter of millennials and the rising generation of Gen Z actually consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day,” he added.
As Sprinkle explains, this is bad news for CPG in the breakfast space in that packaged products are losing their hold on defining breakfast.
“While still very popular, a lot of your standard packaged breakfast product categories have been flat for many years often because of nutritional concerns or else because of more portable options,” he explained. “Cold cereal has been flat for a long time. Things like Pop-Tarts, your breakfasts of old, even orange juice for that matter, a lot of your sort of American classic breakfast items have been flat at best, if not declining in popularity.”
They also are losing their grasp on breakfast because people are reaching for more whole foods, such as an orange instead of orange juice, he said.
Sprinkle explains that part of this shift is based the more general consumer gravitation toward the perimeter of the store and fresh options. But, he adds, this also is creating opportunities for new kinds of packaged breakfast products – especially since most Americans still don’t have time or interest in cooking elaborate meals first thing in the morning.
For example, he says, Greek yogurt is thriving as a go-to packaged food for breakfasts in part because it is fresh, has a cultural tradition, offers functional ingredient benefits through its high protein content and also is fast and easy to eat.
Other winners are breakfast biscuits, snack and granola bars, nuts, seeds and whole fruit, he said.
Sprinkle says another big CPG winner from these changing priorities and patterns are fresh beverages with functional ingredients and smoothies.
The rising popularity of ‘brinner’
While traditional packaged breakfast foods may be losing some of their hold on what Americans eat in the morning, they are gaining traction during other times of day.
For the past decade, breakfast has been “infiltrating what food service call other day parts. That is part of the larger erosion between meals and mealtimes and even between meals and snacks,” Sprinkle said.
He attributes this in part to office workers and students simply not needing as many calories at the start of their day as laborers and, therefore, they have pushed back when they eat breakfast.
As a result, the idea of brinner – or breakfast for dinner – is gaining popularity. According to a national poll conducted by ORC International for pancake and baking mix brand Krusteaz, more Americans are making breakfast for dinner.
The Krusteaz third annual breakfast survey released in February found nine out of 10 Americans say they eat breakfast for dinner – of these 41% do so regularly at least two three times a month, which is up 10% from 2015.
According to this survey, breakfast night is most popular with millennials, who also are eating traditional breakfast foods for lunch and as late night snacks. In fact, they are 84% more likely than Gen Xers and Boomers to eat breakfast for lunch and 83% more likely than Gen Xers and Boomers to enjoy breakfast as a late night snack.
Andy Heily, the president of Continental Mills, which makes Krusteaz brand breakfast products, attributes the popularity of brinner to it being economical.
“A lot of millennials that are first starting careers or they have very young families, so pancakes are actually extremely economical,” and fast to time-saving compared to some other options, he said.
To find out what is behind this trend, I chatted with Andy Heily, the president of Continental Mills which makes Krusteaz brand breakfast mixes and foods.
According to Heily, another selling point for breakfast for dinner is the convenience and the ability to easily customize breakfast foods – particularly pancakes and waffles.
Finally, he says, brinner is gaining traction because it offers more than just food – it also is an experience.
“We are really selling an experience as much as we are selling an end-product, and you know the preparation, the throw-in some chocolate chips or bananas or blueberries in it, the aroma of your pancakes coming off the griddle in your household – it is really an entire experience. And then sitting down and sharing that experience with someone else is something that our consumers value as much as anything, and particularly millennials,” he said.
So, the big take away here is that even though consumers’ shifting priorities and eating patterns may mean that traditional breakfast foods at a traditional breakfast time are losing market potential, there are still many ways that CPG manufacturers can succeed in the breakfast category – whether through innovative new products that offer freshness, convenience and portability, or by re-positioning existing products for different times of day.