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Breakfast on the run

BY Carol Radice

What’s for breakfast? Well, over the last 20 years or so, the answer to that question has changed dramatically for many, if not most households.

Not having enough time in the morning is causing nearly half of all U.S. consumers to either skip eating breakfast at home or grab something on the go.

When people eat breakfast is not the only thing changing — what they are eating is shifting, too. Yet just because consumers’ time is restricted does not mean they will settle for just anything.

What used to include eggs, potatoes, pancakes, waffles, toast and other breads have been replaced by more portable, often healthful options, including bars, shakes, sandwiches and smoothies. Research from Netherlands-based DSM Food Specialties shows that when it comes to picking breakfast choices, consumers prefer health above all other attributes, including taste, price and indulgence.

These changes have played havoc with many retailers’ breakfast aisle, with some cutting back on such traditional segments as cereals in favor of more bars and other portable alternatives. The result has seen a big change in the way retailers merchandise the breakfast category and, some said, a larger change in what they expect from the evolving category.

Following consumer trends in this category has never been more important and, frankly, never resulted in more research on the category. For example, breakfast sandwiches are a popular choice among those looking to eat breakfast any time of the day. Consumers love them for their portability and appetite-filling qualities.

Such functional beverages as juices and smoothies also continue to be a top choice for consumers looking for a healthy, quick, nutritious breakfast choice. In its 2018 report, “Breakfast Trends: Health on Top,” DSM Food Specialties found the majority of consumers look for breakfast drinks featuring functional benefits, and most are willing to try ingredients they are unfamiliar with if they believe it offers such additional qualities as boosting immunity, relieving stress, adding energy and detoxing.

Quaker Oats, for example, recently introduced Quaker Oat Beverage, a heart healthy, lactose-free bottled drink to capitalize on this trend. The plant-based drink comes in original, unsweetened and vanilla flavors. It can be sipped on its own, blended with other ingredients into a smoothie, put on cereal, or added to coffee, the company said.

Bar none
Hectic morning schedules and a growing awareness toward what constitutes a healthful breakfast are the top factors driving growth in the bar category, the DSM study said. Bars play right into the hands of consumers looking to make a minimum effort to have a healthy breakfast, as well as those interested in all-day grazing. In fact, some have dubbed them the “just in case bars,” due to the number of people who keep bars in their car, desk or gym bag for those occasions when there’s no time to buy a snack or meal.

This interest in grab-and-go convenience is pushing sales of bars — granola, energy, breakfast, meal replacement and nutrition — forward. By the end of this year, snack bars are projected to reach $8 billion in sales, according to market research firm Mintel. Positioning bars in easy-to-find locations is key to capturing both planned and impulse purchases, according to the Mintel report. For example, coffee stations in high-foot traffic locations are an ideal place to merchandise bars and other breakfast options.

Pass the milk
Interest in alternatives may be growing, but cereal remains one of the top choices for breakfast. Major brands are making sure to stay relevant by introducing on-trend options to keep interest in the category on point. “All of the large players in this industry are investing big money in finding the right products for today’s consumers,” said one industry source. “They know what is at stake here, and they are not going to be caught sleeping as the category changes and evolves into something it was not just a few years ago.”

Looking to address gut health, Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg’s launched Hi! Happy Inside, an all-in-one cereal created to support digestive wellness, featuring prebiotics, probiotics and fiber. The cereal includes a blend of fruit and yogurt pieces, and is made with 100% whole grains that stay crunchy in milk. It is available in three flavors — coconut crunch, bold blueberry and simply strawberry.

Kellogg’s also has introduced Special K Protein Honey Almond Ancient Grains. The cereal features 15 g of protein per serving and includes sorghum, black rice flakes, whole grain wheat and ancient grains.

Minneapolis-based General Mills recently expanded its cereal offerings with the introduction of Fiber One Strawberries and Vanilla Clusters. The new flavor features steel cut oats, vanilla clusters and real strawberries, and, according to Kim Seifert, senior marketing manager at Fiber One, this new variety gives consumers a tasty and easy way to increase their fiber intake. Seifert said a one-cup serving of the cereal provides 35% of the daily recommended value of fiber. It joins the other two Fiber One cereal offerings, Original Bran and Honey Clusters.

General Mills officials said the decision to extend the Fiber One lineup with a new flavor was to encourage consumers to eat more fiber. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people get at least 28 grams of fiber in their diet daily, yet studies show most only average 16 grams.

Biscuit fever
Voortman Bakery, best known for its lineup of cookie offerings, recently has entered the portable breakfast category with its Sugar Free Breakfast Biscuits. Available in oatmeal blueberry, apple cinnamon and chocolate banana, the biscuits are high in whole grains and fiber. Officials from the Burlington, Ontario-based company said the individually-wrapped biscuits are a nutritious breakfast alternative for health-conscious people who may otherwise skip breakfast.

“The Mintel study highlighted an important fact for us — that consumers are drawn to healthier breakfast options featuring fiber and whole grains, as well as low to no sugar, so these became must-have attributes in our biscuits,” CMO Ken Cross said. “At the same time, it wasn’t enough to create a product with a superior nutritional profile, we needed it to taste as good or better than any other breakfast biscuit on the market.”

The company also changed the way it packaged the biscuits, so that it met the needs of “on-the-go” consumers. Whereas most of Voortman’s products are packaged in family-friendly packs — 15-to-20 cookies per package — the new breakfast biscuits are packaged in two-count sachets that can be tossed into purses or lunch boxes. 

While convenience is a key driver in why consumers buy its Nabisco Belvita Breakfast Biscuits, officials at East Hanover, N.J.-based Mondelez International said the nutritional profile is what has helped sustain interest in this product over time.

The company, which does not use high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors or sweeteners, has carefully crafted the biscuits to include a combination of grains designed to release steady energy for four hours. Belvita Breakfast Biscuits come in two varieties, soft or crunchy, and are available in six flavors, including toasted coconut, cranberry orange, golden oat, blueberry, cinnamon brown sugar and chocolate. The biscuits can be combined with a serving of low-fat dairy and fruit, such as low-fat Greek yogurt and peaches to be part of a balanced breakfast, officials said.

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