The best way to start the day is with a healthy breakfast. But these days, convenience is king in the early part of the day. We're rushing around in the morning more, so everything in a breakfast meal -- if you can call it that any more -- needs to be portable, so we can quickly grab and easily eat it as we dart off.
Breakfast product sales dropped 5 percent between 2009 and 2014 to $11 billion, according to Mintel. More food purchases are made away from home, and together with the convenience factor, lower-cost, nutritious breakfast items are more appealing. This isn't helping boxed and hot cereals, although Mintel predicts the cereal category will inch up 2 percent from 2014 to 2019, to reach sales of $11.1 billion.
Hot cereals sales in 2014 were up 2.5 percent, according to Euromonitor, but cold, ready-to-eat cereals sales slid 2.1 percent. Flavor exploration is equally hot, and consumers aren't afraid to experiment with new textures, flavors and concepts, even at breakfast. Nutrition is still on top of consumer minds, however, and there is great potential for healthy breakfast product introductions.
Growing the most over the past 12 months is the breakfast sandwich category and flatbread sandwich group, according to Mintel's Global New Products Database. Many products tout themselves as a good source of protein or list grams of protein included in a serving. Two of the most recent breakfast sandwich introductions are from Udi’s Gluten Free, Boulder, Colo. These new microwavable items include gluten-free breakfast burritos in Jalapeno Chicken Apple Sausage; Sausage, Egg & Cheese; Egg White, SouthWest Veggies & Cheddar and Uncured Bacon, Egg & Cheddar.
"Convenient, single-serve packs that you can grab, throw in a bag and open easily [are popular]," says Ricardo Rodriguez, marketing manager for confectionery & bakery at Ingredion, Westchester, Ill. "Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever and are taking the time to read what ingredients are used [in products] and what functional benefits they're getting. This applies to on-the-go breakfast foods, which can be seen in the increasing popularity of nutritional bars and cereal bars. These bars come in appealing flavors that deliver nutritional value and fortification all while maintaining great taste and texture."
The breakfast category is so attractive even Snyder's-Lance, a maker of chips and vending machine crackers, jumped in. The company in January debuted its own version of the portable mid-morning breakfast with its Lance Quick Starts sandwich crackers. Similar to the company's other filled crackers, these come in single-serve packs containing six crackers each – but their flavors are blueberry muffin, cinnamon roll and maple French toast. They have 3g of protein, 3g of fiber and 13g of whole grains.
“It allows us to introduce Lance brands into morning snacking and (provide) an early-morning energy boost for consumers who are on the go, looking for a healthy breakfast,” says Carl Lee, president and CEO of the Charlotte, N.C., company.
More of the good, less of the bad
Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., says it's working hard to deliver cold cereals that give consumers more of what they want and need and less of what they don’t. They want ingredients they're familiar with, Kellogg reports. While consumers are accepting of functional ingredients like protein and fiber, they don't want artificial anything.
The company announced in late June it will introduce more than 40 new products to its U.S. lineup this year that will match trends linked with both nutrition and convenience. Included are Kellogg's Origins ready-to-eat cereals, granolas and muesli, a series of products prepared without artificial flavors and hydrogenated oils. The new line blends traditional and ancient grains -- such as oats, barley, spelt, quinoa and the Kamut brand of Khorasan wheat -- with the tart and sweet tastes of cranberry and coconut as well as apricots, apples, walnuts, almonds, cashews and pumpkin seeds. The results have a rich, nutty taste, hearty textures and a good source of daily fiber.
Portable nutrition from Kellogg was introduced in late May with Special K Chewy Nut Bars in cranberry almond and chocolate almond flavors. Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Breakfast Biscuits, another hand-held on-the-go breakfast item, also will debut, made with 22g of whole-grain oats and real fruit. The biscuits are suitable for a multi-stage breakfast, a trend in which consumers have some of their breakfast at home and have the rest later in the morning. Eggo Breakfast Sandwiches, which launched in February, are microwavable sandwiches available in four varieties that can go from the freezer to plate in minutes. Each has less than 300 calories and provides a good source of protein.
Meanwhile, General Mills, Minneapolis, is one of an expanding number of food processors and restaurant chains pledging to remove "artificial" flavors, colors and other artificial ingredients from its food products. Will Kellogg follow the lead?
In June, General Mills announced a multi-year project to get rid of artificial ingredients and colors in its cereals. While 60 percent of its cereals already are free of artificial flavors or colors, and many have been that way for several years, the company's goal is to boost that number to 75 percent for breakfast cereals by January 2016 and to 90 percent by the end of next year.
General Mills also launched Gluten Free Fruit & Oats Chex Clusters in Natural Berry Flavor, with no colors from artificial sources, no artificial flavors and no high-fructose corn syrup. With 200 calories, 250mg of sodium, zero saturated fat and 17g of sugar, the cereal looks like traditional Rice Chex pieces, but is fruit-filled and features small clusters of oats and crispy rice. To bump up dry cereal sales, this launch is one of several new gluten-free cereals the company will be introducing this summer, along with gluten-free Lucky Charms and five gluten-free Cheerios varieties.