Stoking the Breakfast Fire

Oct. 22, 2020
On-the-go and across all dayparts, consumers are craving breakfast — vending, micro markets and pantry service are a natural fit as convenience drives consumption.

Time-starved consumers continue to fuel demand for grab-and-go breakfast options, and convenience services providers have the prime opportunity to be their go-to choice by satisfying their morning hunger, hassle-free and on-site.

While providing breakfast options in the workplace offers the unparalleled convenience of skipping lines and avoiding delays during the morning rush, there’s an even greater demand with COVID-19 safety concerns and social distancing playing into eating occasions. Consumers want more handheld, prepackaged options that answer the call for convenience, portability and versatility in quick, low-contact breakfast items. 

Morning crunch

More than half of adults said they are more likely to pick up a breakfast meal, snack or beverage from a quick-service restaurant or coffee shop on their way to work than they were two years ago, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2020 State of the Industry Report. Coffee and snack establishments reported that 47% of their customer traffic is during the morning hours. .

Another shift in the breakfast landscape is that traditional breakfast foods are no longer confined to the morning daypart — they’ve grown in popularity as an all-day meal or snack. This signals even more opportunity for operators to expand their vending and micro market menus to capture more sales and please patrons around the clock. 

Just look to quick-service chains for inspiration: Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Dunkin’, Starbucks and Panera have expanded breakfast menu offerings and reengineered items to be more portable. And full-service chains like IHOP and Denny’s, already established in the breakfast space, are offering all-day-breakfast menus as breakfast for lunch and dinner have become mainstream. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Denny’s, IHOP and Panera have all begun offering delivery during the breakfast hours. 

IHOP announced a new fast-casual breakfast spinoff called Flip’d that targets customers who want breakfast on the go, serving up reimagined IHOP-inspired items, like pancake bowls, egg sandwiches and breakfast burritos. 

“In looking at what exists today in terms of fresh, fast menu options — particularly at breakfast — there’s still tremendous opportunity for growth,” said IHOP president Jay Johns. “After talking extensively with consumers in large cities across the country, we designed Flip’d by IHOP to deliver on what folks told us they want and need from a trusted brand like IHOP in a fast-casual setting, putting an emphasis on quality ingredients, speed, to-go and delivery.” 

The NPD Group’s Future of Morning study, released earlier this year, illustrates how morning foods are changing. “While breakfast as an institution is deeply rooted, the what, how and why surrounding our food and beverage choices and where we get them is changing,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and co-author of the study. “Busy schedules mixed with good intentions and the need for fuel shape what we eat and drink in the morning.” 

The NPD study found that consumers today are becoming less concerned with the food itself and more interested in solutions that can bridge meals. In their quest for functional, convenient and enjoyable foods, easy access to food drives the decision-making process of what to eat. 

“Consumers are looking for foods and beverages to meet their needs — not for a food

that fits a specific meal or snack daypart,” Portalatin stated. “Food manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators all have an opportunity to make breakfast and morning snack food acquisition seamless by focusing on the consumer needs and offering daily solutions, including niche nutritional needs.”

Better-for-you meets indulgent

Appealing to health-focused consumers without sacrificing indulgent taste, Kodiak Cakes, based in Park City, Utah, offers a variety of nourishing single-serve breakfast or any-time-of-day meals-in-a-cup. The protein- packed cups are all made with 100% whole grains and non-GMO ingredients for a wholesome meal, just by adding water, stirring, microwaving, and digging in. 

Kodiak Cakes’ novel Flapjack Cups serve up a hot, fluffy, whole grain pancake in a cup, with 10g to 12g of protein, in flavors like Chocolate Peanut Butter and Blueberry and Maple. 

Kodiak Cakes’ Muffin Cups stir up a wholesome whole-grain muffin in a cup, with 6g of protein per cup and varieties including Blueberry and Double Dutch Chocolate. 

Rounding out the cups are Kodiak Cakes’ whole grain Oatmeal Cups that come in several indulgent flavors, with 14g protein per cup, including Caramel, Strawberry Dark Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. 

Also breakfast-friendly are Kodiak Cakes’ Crunchy Granola Bars in 1.59-oz., two-bar packages with 10g of protein per serving and Bear Bites Mini Graham Crackers made with 100% whole grains and 5g of protein per serving. 

Take it upscale

John Dourson, national sales manager for alternative channels at Sara Lee Frozen Bakery, said that while the company’s classic pastries and muffins have a loyal following as both a breakfast and all-day snack, he has also seen a pronounced trend toward more upscale, gourmet varieties, especially as millennials and Gen Z make their mark in the workforce.  

“Blueberry and banana nut muffins will always have their place as traditional favorites, but there’s more interest among millennials and Gen Z for more gourmet varieties like pumpkin spice and sweet-and-savory profiles like salted caramel and cheese-filled streusel muffins,” Dourson observed. “In micro markets where they pay with their thumbprint or a swipe of their card, and in vending which is increasingly cashless, the operator gets their price point and the consumer gets the flavors and upscale profile they seek.” 

Sara Lee Frozen Bakery recently upgraded its packaging to convey more upscale appeal. The trend is also evident in foodservice and vending commissaries to which Sara Lee Frozen Bakery sells its bulk croissants. 

“Croissants are growing in popularity as convenience stores and vending operators who make their own sandwiches have choices like egg with smoked Gouda, gaining in popularity as an upscaling over the typical sausage and egg convenience sandwich,” Dourson added. 

To appeal to more health-minded consumers, including K-12 schools and healthcare clientele, Sara Lee Frozen Bakery introduced 51% whole grain muffins earlier this year. They’re available in 2-oz. Double Chocolate, Apple Cinnamon, Corn, Blueberry, and Banana and 4-oz. Blueberry, Banana and Double Chocolate. 

Dourson added that health and safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are fueling skyrocketing demand for Sara Lee’s individually wrapped pastries. A new addition to Sara Lee Frozen Bakery’s lineup of Danish pastries, cakes and pies is its 3.25-oz.-3.48-oz. New York style mini cheesecakes in classic, strawberry and salted caramel varieties. 

“Today’s younger consumers are less traditional and will eat what they want, when they want it — there’s no more ‘you can’t wear white after Labor Day’ mentality,” Dourson remarked. “People embrace breakfast all day. McDonald’s really expanded the category beyond the traditional daypart. If they go into a c-store, micro market, vending machine, if it appeals to them, they will buy it regardless of the time of day.” 

Comfort classics

Bethany Runyan, Tyson Foods’ senior manager of channel and customer development, attributed shifting breakfast patterns to consumers’ mornings being increasingly more compressed for time versus other dayparts; the continued growth of snacking; and the changing work landscape, with more people working from home. To boost breakfast food traction, she advised operators to offer comfort food classics as part of the mix. 

“In the current climate, due to budgets and/or elevated stress levels, many consumers return to simple and craveable favorites,” she stated. 

Consumers are looking for options that will help them stay fueled throughout the day, Runyan added, and they tend to associate “filling” with high-protein foods like meat or eggs that can keep them full until the next time they eat. 

“Communicate value to the customer. It doesn’t have to be the cheapest,” Runyan advised. “Incentives and promotions utilized as ways to convey value have resonated with consumers in past recessions. Adoption of technology/apps due to COVID could make this easier than in the past.” 

Other breakfast-boosting strategies Runyan suggested are to cross promote between options that provide an “eat now” and “eat later” combo, pairing breakfast and lunch items and to bundle beverages with breakfast items for the upsell. 

“Established brands can play a role, providing value, reliability and comfort to consumers who are afraid to try new brands for fear of wasting money if they don’t like them, particularly in this economic climate,” Runyon added. “Make sure you are communicating to customers those key brands are part of your assortment.”    

Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson’s lineup includes 7-oz. Jimmy Dean® Breakfast Bowls, with up to 23g of protein, an all-in-one breakfast option that combines popular breakfast ingredients in a convenient, single- serve format. Options include Biscuit & Sausage Gravy and Sausage, Egg, Potato & Cheddar. 

Also playing into today’s trends, Jimmy Dean® Morning Combos like 3.27-oz. Mini Maple Pancakes and Maple Sausage Bites turn classic breakfast favorites into portable, bite-size pairings. With “mini-meals” increasingly replacing traditional ones, offering more portable presentations of plated classics that focus on the grab-and-go factor can boost traction. 

“As companies continue to progress, expand and adapt their programs in a new market space — meaning as work schedules become more progressive and flex — there may be a greater need for breakfast-at-lunch offers,” Runyan commented. “Having these types of offerings in the assortment can drive business but also maximize sales of the item through expansion past breakfast hours. Don’t forget to market — make sure you are enticing customers by making them aware of your all-day breakfast options.” 

Cheesewich Factory, based in Hodgkins, Ill., is rolling out a new high- protein breakfast contender: the 3.07-oz., vacuum-sealed Cheesewich Breakfast Taco, featuring a 1-oz. egg patty and 1-oz. slice of Colby jack or pepper jack cheese with two slices of all-natural turkey bacon in a flour tortilla. It ships frozen and can be microwaved for 25 seconds when sold thawed. It joins Cheesewich’s 3.6-oz. Bacon N Eggs, with two slices of turkey bacon and two hard boiled eggs as a high-protein breakfast offering. The company’s signature item is its Original 2.5-oz. Cheesewich salami slice sandwiched between two pieces of cheese. 

Pair it with coffee

Mondelēz International Foodservice is helping operators perk up morning breakfast and snack sales with its eye-catching Brew-mance point-of-sale materials for coffee stations and checkout counters in micro markets and break rooms. The kits contain belVita product samples, a countertop basket rack, header card and two counter cards designed to encourage bundling belVita Breakfast Biscuits with coffee to help build incremental profits with every coffee sale.  

belVita Breakfast Biscuits check many of the boxes for those seeking a healthy breakfast, snack or meal replacement on the go. Made with rolled oats, whole grain wheat, and no high- fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors or sweeteners, belVita Breakfast Biscuits are formulated to provide four hours of steady nutritious energy. And one-third of belVita eating occasions are reportedly a meal replacement, not only confined to morning. The bars come in a variety of flavors, formats and sizes including Crunchy, Protein, Snack Packs and Sandwich and can be paired with yogurt or fruit for a custom and balanced breakfast. 

Through its whitepaper titled “Reimagining the Breakfast Space for the Modern Consumer,” Mondelēz Foodservice advised the following: “Look at the competitive set and see where you can fill gaps to ensure you become and remain part of consumers’ morning habits. Prioritize portability. Grab-and-go food is driving sales across segments and dayparts. Offering up a variety of handhelds — including breakfast sandwiches, reimagined platters, breakfast bowls and other on-the-go friendly foods — can help you attract consumers seeking low-contact foodservice meals.” 

For more tips on how to reimagine breakfast in your operation, download the full white paper here.



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