People are eating a healthier breakfast, but it has to be quick

Fewer people are skipping breakfast, but they’re often grabbing a take-out breakfast meal

bowl of cereal with fruit
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Breakfast habits are changing, says provincial consumer market analyst Jeewani Fernando.

“Market research shows that while skipping breakfast has declined in Canada, consumers are heading out of their homes in search of breakfast more often than previously,” says Fernando. “Cafés and fast-food restaurants are top of mind for away-from-home breakfast options. That said, many consumers source their breakfast at home more often than any other meal.

“Food trucks and ethnic flavours are making their mark on breakfast meals, too. These trends are creating many opportunities for food processors and restaurant owners alike.”

According to The NPD Group, 80 per cent of all breakfast meals are made in five minutes or less.

Ready-to-eat cereal remains the most popular, followed by toast, fruit and hot cereal — but toast is in a long-term decline while fruits and yogurts are steadily becoming more popular.

However, fruit juice, breakfast’s second most commonly consumed beverage after coffee, has been in decline since 2006.

“Overall, in-home or carried-from-home breakfast trends imply time-pressured consumers with a motivation towards eating healthy,” says Fernando.

Innovation in the limited-service segment (LSR) has grown overall traffic for the breakfast meal occasion. However, breakfast full-service restaurant traffic has declined.

The old standbys — such as eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns and toast — are less popular, while more people are grabbing breakfast sandwiches and bagels. Egg and cheese sandwiches are the most popular sandwich category in LSR.

Coffee is the dominant item ordered at food service, followed by breakfast sandwiches.

“Food-service breakfast meal trends also indicate consumers are constrained by time,” says Fernando. “These trends also suggest that while consumers are demanding convenient food, they also want to ensure this food is healthy and high quality.”

When it comes to food truck sales, Fernando says millennials (those born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s) are the driving force.

“This, in part, explains the tendency of food trucks to locate near where millennials congregate, such as universities and late-night bars. Some food truck companies communicate their schedules via social media.”

Breakfast accounted for nearly 60 per cent of restaurant industry traffic growth over the past five years.

“Tim Hortons is facing stiff competition from rivals who are aggressively contending for a slice of the profitable breakfast market,” says Fernando. “Interestingly, more than one-quarter of McDonald’s revenue comes from breakfast.”

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