Food Trends / Ingredients and Formulation / R&D / Breakfast Foods

Product Developers Taking a Cue from Breakfast-Snacking Trends

Product developers are taking a cue from breakfast-snacking trends to create new food products.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Demand for a quick, tasty breakfast that's made with better ingredients is rising. As a result, consumers are seeing more new items in supermarket aisles, such as baking, muffin and pancake products with organic, free-from, non-GMO, natural and Fair Trade-certified ingredients.

Breakfast is popular at other times of day, too. What used to be exclusively morning foods are one of the top choices of food Americans eat when dining out. The Hartman Group finds that all-day breakfast offerings comprised 68 percent of all of the foods people ate at full-service restaurants, 63 percent at cafes, 60 percent in fast-casual and 55 percent in fast-food outlets, within a three-month time-frame.

McDonald's realized serving its breakfast items all day would pay off, despite saying for years it was impossible to make this move, that its restaurants were too busy to handle breakfast orders on top of burgers and the rest of the menu. But all-day breakfast fare has proved to be a crowd pleaser for McDonald’s. "This is the consumers' idea. This is what they want us to do," McDonald’s president Michael Andres told the Wall Street Journal recently. "This could be the catalyst for our turnaround."

The traditional definitions of snacks and breakfast are also softening, as Packaged Facts notes consumers are changing their perceptions about breakfast, and the meal is evolving into an all-morning snack fest. 24 per cent of consumers snack in the morning instead of eating a full meal, the firm's new report indicates.

"As restaurant brands such as Denny’s have long known, and as McDonald’s success with all-day breakfast cements, foods traditionally associated with the breakfast daypart can also find success during other parts of the day and/or as a snack," says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

One of the largest independent processors of bacon and sausage in the country, SugarCreek Packing Co. (, Cincinnati, has noticed the impact of all-day breakfast on the industry. "Clearly breakfast foods are growing, given the leading trends in quick-service restaurant segment. But I don't know if the breakfast day part is growing or just breakfast options sold at different times of the day," questions Lance Layman, vice president of business development at SugarCreek.

"Breakfast food options offered now throughout the day [may have] health benefits not normally available in hand-held lunch and dinner options," he continues. "Based on market results, these are obviously benefits and options consumers desire. As breakfast foods grow, you'll see more focus on products that offer lower calorie options and deliver higher amounts of protein."

In and away from home

All-day breakfast items will definitely be more popular at the supermarket as well, Layman adds. "This is absolutely the case in retail segments, both behind the counter in foodservice offerings, as well as on the shelves. Foodservice trends almost always cascade down through the retail channel after first becoming mainstream within restaurants. As a baby boomer working to maintain a healthier lifestyle, I'm trying to eat smaller meals/snacks more frequently throughout the day, and this now includes breakfast. As a result, because I eat breakfast at home before work, I'm now eating a 250-calorie breakfast sandwich, ready in two minutes. Breakfast options both at home and away are offering me convenient and healthy options that meet my needs, at any time of the day."

Breakfast and morning snack consumption in and away from home is forecast to grow by 5 percent through 2019, reports NPD Group, Chicago. Annual morning snack occasions per person in and away from home have increased 17 percent in the past six years, according to NPD's continual tracking of U.S. eating behaviors. The market intelligence firm cites speed, affordability and portability as main reasons. Convenience is why sales of breakfast sandwiches, better-for-you yogurt and cereal bars are climbing.

Although a lot of people are eating breakfast away from home, most breakfast meals, 70 percent, are consumed at home. The average annual number of breakfast occasions per person in 2015 was 361, NPD says, which is up 11 occasions per person from 2010.

"The best way to tap into the breakfast and morning snack opportunities is to first understand what the consumers' motivations, needs and wants are, based on demographics, life stage and situation, and let this knowledge guide your decision-making," reports David Portalatin, NPD's vice president, food industry analyst. "It’s clear by the strong growth in breakfast that it’s an opportunity for food manufacturers, operators and retailers."

Stretching into snack time

The most common product crossing the breakfast and snack line is yogurt, according to the report. 39 per cent of adults said they eat yogurt as a snack, while 44 percent eat it for breakfast. 25 percent of consumers snack on cereal, 16 percent on bacon and 13 percent on pancakes and French toast, so food producers should take advantage of this snack-based trend, Packaged Facts indicates.

With Greek yogurt sales finally plateauing, Chobani LLC (, Norwich, N.Y., is launching new items this summer. They include Drink Chobani yogurt beverage in 10-oz. bottles and whole-milk versions of its popular Chobani Flip brand. Offering portable, on-the-go protein and simple non-GMO ingredients, Chobani Drink comes in Mixed Berry, Strawberry Banana, Apple Cucumber Spinach and Mango flavors. The whole-milk Flip comes in blueberry, raspberry, cherry and pear & honey. The blueberry contains 140 calories, 5g of fat, 12g of sugar and 11g of protein.

"When it comes to food, innovation means sticking to our roots, using simple recipes and only natural ingredients to build on our momentum and guide us into new areas that could use some better options," says Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer at Chobani. "We're expanding into two new categories like drinks and savory dips to give consumers what they're looking for: delicious, nutritious, natural food that's accessible to everyone."

What about cereal?

Cereals are losing some of their crunch, as many other breakfast items are taking their sales. "Cereal sales have declined since 2007, while alternative breakfast foods see increasing demands, challenging incumbents to adapt using new strategies for entrants in the alternative space," says a report this spring from Boston's Lux Research. Looking at the breakfast market landscape, the report finds the growth rate has struggled since a peak in 2011 at $8.5 billion. Why? Younger consumers are shifting to snack bars, yogurt and other items.

In 2014, yogurt sales exceeded $7 billion and snack bars topped the $5.5 billion mark. "The need for greater convenience, changing social mores and an increasingly movable workforce are changing the definition of breakfast," notes Joice Pranata, an associate at Lux and lead author of the report. "With the drive toward 'natural' and 'healthy' choices, there’s a greater opportunity for experimentation with new breakfast alternatives," she adds.

Indeed, Kellogg Co. (, Battle Creek, Mich., has been facing trials in the breakfast cereal category, but Kellogg is embracing the breakfast-snack hybrid segment by packing some of its cereals, such as Frosted Flakes with Energy Clusters and Special K granola, in grab-and-go cups.

A single-serve format is central to Kellogg’s marketing strategy this year, and the company will continue to expand into the snack space next year, reports Paul Norman, president of Kellogg North America. The company rolled out Kellogg’s To Go Breakfast Mix in single-serve, reclosable pouches that can easily be tucked into a car’s cup holder. They feature larger cereal pieces and nuts, and can be eaten straight from the pouch, without milk. The company believes there is room for sales improvement in such smaller, on-the-go sizes. The pouched cereals also can be enjoyed at night, a prime time for snacking, says Kellogg.

Kellogg also is rolling out two line expansions of Raisin Bran granola, and also plans to package Eggo waffles in single-serve units, says Andrew Loucks, president of U.S. frozen foods for Kellogg. The Special K brand will debut a crustless breakfast quiche in three varieties. The company says each single serving quiche provides 10-11g of protein and can be microwaved in two minutes.

General Mills (, Minneapolis, also is eyeing ways to serve portion-packed cereal on-the-run, in a pouch, without milk. It's also working on single-serve breakfast bars and snackable formats, says Alan Cunningham, senior marketing manager. "The main aisle category will continue to evolve in a number of different ways with the presence of pouches. Certainly, the ones without milk are more interesting to us."

But the company hasn't given up on traditional cereal. It recently launched Tiny Toast, the company's first new cereal brand since 2001, featuring small toast-shaped pieces of cereal, sprinkled with either blueberries or strawberries. Testing with health-conscious consumers indicated the cereal has a strong family appeal, similar to Honey Nut Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. "Consumers told us they wanted the fruit to have a uniform coverage on the cereal," adds General Mills product developer Mike Everson. "They didn’t want us to put in whole slices of fruit. We heard the Blueberry Tiny Toast tastes like a blueberry muffin, which is just awesome praise. That’s exactly what we were going for."

PepsiCo's Quaker Oats subsidiary (, Chicago, is waking consumers up with ancient grains in two breakfast items: Quaker SuperGrains Instant Hot Cereal, featuring a blend of oats, barley, flax, rye and quinoa; and Quaker Real Medleys SuperGrains Granola, with wheat, oats, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, amaranth, barley and quinoa.

An emerging breakfast category, biscuits are great for grab-and-go mornings. Like Mondelez International's BelVita and Snyders-Lance's Quick Starts breakfast biscuits, Quaker recently launched Breakfast Flats. The bar-like biscuits are baked and have 18g of whole grains per three-flat serving, a good source of fiber, no artificial flavors or added colors and less than 200 calories per pack. "As a working mom, I know how hectic mornings can be," notes Lesley Butler, senior marketing director for Quaker Foods North America.

New kind of wakeup call

For many, the day doesn't start without caffeine in some format, but SOL Natural Foods' new Macaccino energy blends, launched at the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, serve as a flavorful gourmet coffee alternative. The blends use a 100 percent organic combination of roasted maca root (a cruciferous Peruvian root considered a superfood), cocoa, mesquite powder, nutmeg and cinnamon to create a beverage with the flavor profile of coffee and hot chocolate, but without the jitters and crashes of caffeine- and sugar-heavy coffee. Macaccino was created at the Golden Mean Café in Santa Monica, Calif., as an exploration of the flavor of roasted maca.

Cold-brew coffee is also percolating this sizzling summer, and Los Angeles-based Califia Farms' ( line of Cold Brews is just one of many cold coffees providing a smooth kickstart to hectic mornings. The Latte, Mocha, XX Espresso, Salted Caramel and Black and White varieties all are based on almond milk and are a brewed slowly for better flavor, according to the company.

Though evolving, breakfast undoubtedly offers significant opportunities for food manufacturers, and continues to be the most important meal of the day.