Majority of operators saw an increase in breakfast sales over the past year

Short stacks of buttermilk pancakes, breakfast hot dogs, savory grain bowls, kimchi and pork belly egg benedicts…the definition of breakfast has changed a lot in recent years, with consumer tastes expanding outside of traditional a.m. eats and incorporating trending global flavors like sriracha and ingredients like brisket and pulled pork that were previously thought of as a dinner ingredient. The breakfast landscape has certainly shifted, especially since McDonald’s led a QSR revolution by offering breakfast outside of its traditional daypart, sparking breakfast battles across the industry. Two years ago, Datassential released its first MenuTrends Keynote Report diving into breakfast foods, and as trends continue to move, this year we revisit the bustling daypart with the release of our new 2016 Breakfast Keynote. Here’s a peek at the consumer and operator insights.

On the up and up

Once marketed as “the most important meal of the day,” breakfast is a near-universal habit for most consumers, with four out of five reporting having eaten breakfast in the past day. The wide reach of breakfast is on par with insights uncovered from our panel of over 300 operators – 93% reported that breakfast sales have increased, or at least stayed the same, over the past year.

And while the increase of QSR operators offering breakfast items (from Taco Bell’s Morning Value Menu with $1 items like grilled breakfast burritos and skillet bowls to Jack in the Box expanding its breakfast offerings throughout the day with “Brunchfast”) might make it seem like consumers are largely eating on the go, 80% of consumers report eating their last breakfast at home. The majority of consumers are cooking breakfast from scratch, even during the busy workweek, or reaching for ready-to-eat products, signaling an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to capitalize on easy-to-prepare breakfast dishes.

The definition of breakfast is expanding

There’s certainly a wide variety of items eaten for breakfast across the world – in September, Datassential covered breakfast in an issue of International Concepts, highlighting the unique a.m. eats featured at global chains. Around the world, you’ll find everything from flatbread ‘pizza’ topped with za’atar (manakish, popular in Lebanon) to dried beef (called tapa) and rice in the Philippines, while in the US, unexpected flavors and platforms are redefining the traditional definition of breakfast. Egg dishes are loved by many consumers and found at 9 out of 10 operators, who might try amping up tried-and-true favorites like omelets with the addition of unlikely proteins like pork belly and duck, or sauces like salsa verde, all of which have increased triple digits in egg dishes on breakfast menus.

And as segments and dayparts continue to meld together, there’s also been an uptick in cross-utilization of ingredients in breakfasts – 42% of consumers are interested in p.m. foods in the morning, like breakfast pizzas and breakfast burgers, while “brinner” (breakfast for dinner) takes all-day breakfast a step further with breakfast-inspired dishes like carnitas-topped waffles or pizza waffles. At New York City’s Clinton St. Baking Company, you’ll find a menu section dedicated to breakfast for dinner, starring dishes like buttermilk fried chicken and waffles and a latke eggs benedict with house-smoked salmon.

Classic breakfast food is also showing up in unexpected venues – in our September issue of Creative Concepts: Catering, we found that 60% of consumers were interested in breakfast or brunch food at a wedding or special event, the third highest-ranking concept we tested (ranking above family-style food service, taco bars and meat carving stations).

Retail and foodservice opportunities

When it comes to innovative new breakfast dishes and products, what do consumers really want?

For breakfast baked goods, consumers are much more interested in seasonal flavors and unexpected ingredients in savory baked goods over formats like Mexican breads or gluten-free varieties. One consumer wanted different fruit flavors like pear, watermelon, or peach, in muffins and bagels, while another wanted more flavor variety in general such as blueberry and cherry bread in addition to traditional banana bread.

And as the concept of healthy eating continues to evolve, questions about how important nutrition is for breakfast consumers – are people concerned with getting a healthy start to a day, and whether consumers want breakfast foods with associated health halos like non-GMO produce and locally sourced breakfast meats become more relevant. A quarter of consumers place importance on terms like “all-natural” and “organic,” which means highlighting these feel-good terms on packaging or marketing could help entice health-conscious shoppers. And while coffee still reigns supreme as the breakfast beverage of choice, offering a larger range of other beverages popular in the morning, like smoothies and iced coffee, can held expand your a.m. drink program.

Renee Lee is a senior publications specialist at Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information and to purchase the 2016 Breakfast Keynote Report, contact Datassential managing director Brian Darr at brian.darr@datassential.com

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