Analyzing a Trend: Breakfast Breaks Away From Morning

By Suzy Badaracco, Foodable Industry Expert

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Breakfast has expanded out of the morning hours and is showing up around the clock in restaurants and at home. 

It is the only daypart with ties to clinical health research. More recently, there has been health research linking breakfast consumption to weight loss, which will cause the trend to lengthen its lifecycle. Breakfast traffic research is also an indicator of economic conditions. As breakfast traffic increases, so does economic recovery. The playground is shifting as traditional breakfast fare is joined by global dishes that are newer to Americans. As the recovery unfolds, so do consumers’ palettes. 

The rise of breakfast in the media and consumers’ minds is due to a Fusion birth pattern. Yes, breakfast has always been there, but it is because of this birth pattern that it has moved into the spotlight. A Fusion birth is characterized by the trend having multiple Parents. In this case, breakfast’s parents are the economic recovery and media’s spotlight on clinical health research surrounding breakfast.

The economic recovery causes a shift in consumers’ breakfast location from the home to foodservice. Clinical health research has always supported breakfast consumption, but it wasn’t until more recently that media has picked up on this and pushed it center stage. Breakfast is also the most researched for health benefits compared to other dayparts.

Health Ties

This year, we’ve seen several reports of clinical health research tying breakfast to health benefits. The University of Missouri was first in reporting that eating a protein-rich breakfast may increase levels of dopamine in the brain, which may reduce food cravings and overeating later in the day. The University of Missouri found that skipping breakfast could lead to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. And Columbia University found that skipping breakfast leads to elevated cholesterol compared to consuming daily breakfasts of oat porridge or frosted cornflakes.

Effects of Consumer Behavior

Consumers can be guilty of saying one thing and doing another and when it comes to breakfast, there is no exception. Technomic reported that 63 percent of consumers believe it’s unhealthy to skip breakfast, but only 26 percent actually eat breakfast every day, while 80 percent eat breakfast sometimes. Research group Instantly found that more than half of Americans do not consistently eat breakfast every day of the week, with 12 percent rarely eating breakfast at all. Of those who do eat breakfast, nearly 75 percent of consumers usually eat breakfast at home, compared to 15 percent who eat on the go in the car or train, and 10 percent who eat at their desks When eating on the go, 63 percent grab something from home, 45 percent go to a drive-thru restaurant, and 31 percent stop at a convenience store or gas station.

Datassential looked at consumers who eat at home and found that 65 percent prefer making or assembling the meal from scratch, 17 percent prefer refrigerated or pre-packaged breakfast food, and 9 percent prefer heating frozen food for breakfast.

Among the evidence supporting the movement of breakfast across dayparts is research from Technomic, which found that 48 percent of consumers strongly agree that they enjoy breakfast at non-traditional times.

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Spending Habits

Interestingly, as breakfast rises, certain categories have decreased in sales. New Nutrition Business reported in 2014 that breakfast cereal sales dropped $300 million in the U.S. Part of this decline is due to competition ramping up from other categories such as yogurt and breakfast sandwiches.

NPD found that breakfast food lovers are fueling restaurant traffic growth. Restaurants saw breakfast time traffic rise 4 percent in the year ending May 31st, largely due to gains at fast-food chains, while lunch and dinner visits were flat.

Industry Movement

Consider the movement occurring in the food industry. The Artisan Bistro chain launched new globally-inspired breakfast entrées. And after testing all day breakfast in several markets, McDonald’s began offering a limited selection of breakfast items during lunch and dinner. Bob Evans Farms is also offering new menus emphasizing higher-margin breakfast items. Peet's Coffee & Tea has now started to offer all-day breakfast in 17 Chicago area locations. And White Castle will begin offering breakfast all day at its 390 restaurants.

Flavors & Cuisines to Watch

British and Asian breakfasts are the fastest rising in the U.S. Here is what to look forward to:

British influence: Expect a heaping plate of bacon, Lincolnshire sausage, black pudding, eggs, baked beans, tomato, mushrooms, and toast. 

Japanese influence: The most common breakfast choices include bread, rice, miso soup, yogurt, eggs, natto, jam, sausage/ham, seaweed, pickles, cheese, and pancakes. The traditional Japanese counterpart to our bacon, eggs and toast, would be rice and miso soup. 

Korean influence: A traditional breakfast consists of rice, kimchi, beef and/or fish, a soup made of either beef ribs or pork intestines (tripe), and a selection of breads and pastries. 

Thai influence: Thai breakfasts include khao tom, a rice soup. Khao tom is served one of two ways — as a flavored soup accompanying a number of side dishes or as flavored soup packed to the hilt with vegetables, meat, and other ingredients. A thicker, more porridge-like variation of khoa tom, called johk, is also popular.