All Articles Food Restaurant and Foodservice How millennial, retail trends impact breakfast menus, flavors, products -- and decisions

How millennial, retail trends impact breakfast menus, flavors, products — and decisions

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

Every day two-thirds of consumers eat breakfast, most of it at home. But in the past few years restaurants have been working hard to lure customers away from their kitchens by expanding into the breakfast day part and adding innovative breakfast items. Taco Bell’s breakfast menu, which the company rolled out nationwide earlier this year, was the chain’s largest menu expansion in the brand’s history, with Taco Bell President Brian Niccol noting that, “Breakfast is the fastest growing day part in QSR.”

In order to understand the breakfast landscape, from consumer habits and preferences to opportunities for operators, manufacturers, and distributors, Datassential focused on breakfast for the launch of our brand new MenuTrends Keynote report series. For the first time Datassential is leveraging the power of MenuTrends, our trend-tracking database, and combining it with extensive consumer and operator survey data, from motivations to behaviors to opportunities, in order to bring together trends, data, and insights in a series of comprehensive reports that dive deep into key industry topics and categories.

For our first MenuTrends Keynote we asked 1,280 consumers for their thoughts on a wide range of breakfast dishes, flavors, trends, and ingredients. In addition to extensive data on breakfast preferences and motivations, we uncovered opportunities for both operators and manufacturers — what drives their breakfast decision-making and the trends that will impact both menus and retail in the years ahead.


In the past, Datassential’s research has shown that millennials are often not as adventurous as they are perceived. Yet, when it comes to breakfast, they are far more open to new concepts; in fact, they were more interested than any other age group in every adventurous MegaTrend we tested, from breakfast dishes influenced by ethnic trends to healthier breakfast options. Nearly 65% were interested in elevated comfort foods, and 63% were interested in monster or mini breakfast sandwiches.

Creating craveable, innovative breakfast dishes will be key for operators trying to lure millennials to the breakfast menu, particularly as millennials are more inclined to skip breakfast than other age groups. But they are also more likely to eat breakfast outside of traditional morning breakfast hours — breakfast foods available during lunch, dinner, or snack times may drive consumption, both at home and away-from-home.

Retail Opportunities

Currently food manufacturers are at an advantage, with 83% of consumers reporting that they ate their last breakfast at home and 65% preferring to make or assemble breakfast from scratch. But as more restaurants and on-site operators make a play for the consumer’s breakfast dollar, retailers will have to play to their strengths and cater to consumer needs in order to stay ahead. Overall, consumers reported that time, ease, convenience, and health were the most important factors when choosing to eat breakfast at home, preferring foods that were quick to prepare and eat, while noting that cost was the critical factor deterring them from eating breakfast away from home.

Manufacturers may need to renew their focus on convenient, economical products that cater to consumer demands for health and scratch preparation. Convenient speed-scratch products that allow consumers to prepare or assemble at-home meals more conveniently, for instance, such as ready-to-use egg mixes or health and trend-driven carriers like waffle “skinnies” could present opportunities at retail.

Flavor & Cuisine Trends

For both restaurant and on-site operators and manufacturers, understanding breakfast and flavor trends is critical. While traditional breakfast favorites (eggs, bacon) continue to dominate, consumers are getting more adventurous with over half of consumers interested in MegaTrends like elevated comfort foods (chicken and waffles), single-focus restaurants (artisan donuts) and better-for-you concepts (egg whites). Trends found on lunch and dinner menus are increasingly showing up on breakfast menus — according to Datassential MenuTrends, Southern ingredients like pulled pork, sweet potato, and cornmeal were top growers over the past year, as were ethnic flavors like salsa verde, cotija, and plantains.

And “premium-ization” was also key, with premium cheeses like fontina and aged cheddar growing fast on breakfast menus, providing operators with an easy way to make a breakfast dish more upscale. Better-for-you options are also important — gluten-free was the fastest growing healthy breakfast term on menus, growing an astonishing 833% in the past four years. Healthy trends are currently at that “sweet spot” in the industry having reached casual chains and QSRs, but also on-site segments such as the supermarket perimeter, lodging, and colleges and universities.

With such rapid adoption of both breakfast menus and innovative breakfast items across the industry, we believe that data like this is integral to making decisions about future growth and innovation in this category. And this is just a small taste of this wide-ranging MenuTrends Keynote report, which covers everything from top away-from-home breakfast venues and selection criteria to in-depth profiles of flavor and cuisine trends, including seasonal foods and flavors.

Breakfast is, after all, the most important meal of the day.

Maeve Webster is the senior director of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis, and concept testing for the food industry. For more information about ordering the MenuTrends Keynote Breakfast Report, contact Webster at [email protected].


From restaurants and wine to consumer packaged goods and produce marketing, did you know we cover multiple facets of the food and beverage industry with14 food and beverage-related briefs in our network? Be sure to check out our complete list and subscribe — for free — to the briefs that will keep you on top of the news and trends for your business.