There was a time when cereal helped redefine the breakfast eating occasion as a health and wellness moment. Breakfast beverages emerged to add a measured amount of scientific nutrition to fuel the beginning of each day. “Starting the day right” became a cultural mantra that reverberates across America to this day. Food and beverage culture is not static, and the traditional breakfast has given way to more intentional eating — with an eye on nutrient density — and is often spread throughout the morning.
What’s happening to breakfast?
While breakfast is still a special part of the day, it has become focused on emerging notions of targeted nutrition — with an occasional added spoonful of indulgence.
The pressures of increasingly hectic lifestyles and fragmented eating make it difficult for consumers to make the time for breakfast or make good nutrition decisions about the first meal (or snack) of the day. The desire for healthier, more diverse options and our grab-and-go culture are working together to change consumer priorities at breakfast.
Consumers face many competing priorities at breakfast. Breakfast foods touch consumers’ lives in different and important ways: families juggle busy schedules to balance nutrition, young adults try to make informed decisions about their diets or baby boomers just need a healthy kick to start the day.
The cultural picture: morning eating is changing
Wellness and cultural trends have progressively changed morning eating. While many consumers have traded their old favorites for healthier versions (whole grain toast, granola, oatmeal), a wider variety of foods, often sourced from an increasing number of channels, is now meeting morning needs.
Fresh, less processed options (e.g., short ingredient list, no chemicals, natural), foods that are nutrient dense (e.g., proteins, whole grains and fiber) and convenience are top of mind when consumers seek breakfast foods. Unique flavors and absence of negatives (e.g., high fructose corn syrup, sugar) are also important to consumers when they consider breakfast foods.
Despite the presence of wellness priorities, the importance of indulgence at breakfast should not be underestimated. Traditional breakfast foods like scrambled eggs, bacon and hot buttered anything have been classic American comfort foods for decades. No matter what our mood, the trend is clear: breakfast, with its most comforting and indulgent foods, continues to grow in demand because consumers still long for that glow of being cared for.
The breakfast occasion is 15 percent of all eating occasions (see chart) and is supported by early-morning (9 percent) and mid-morning (9 percent) snacks. Consumers today snack substantially more than in decades past, and breakfast is now just one of multiple “morning eatings” that can include one or more additional snacks prior to lunch.
Given the dynamic changes in American culture (in general) and our eating and drinking culture (specifically), the cultural stereotypes of breakfast have lost much of the relevance they once had. Breakfast is now largely a solitary eating occasion: over half of breakfast occasions (53 percent) are ALONE. We also find that the majority of consumers say that “people in my household eat breakfast together less often.”
The abundance of portable, portioned and low-prep options is helping consumers reprioritize breakfast food. Consumers are eating while rushing out the door, on the go or just while doing other things. They are also used to having what they want (not whatever anyone else in the family is eating) at breakfast time.
While convenience will always have a focus on ease, timelines and access, consumers now expect it to be accompanied by clean ingredient panels and other modern markers of food quality. Convenience at breakfast in CPG has increasingly become about quick and easy options for nutrient density and energy. Low-prep, portioned and on-the-go options are proliferating in response to the morning needs of adults and kids.
Go in depth and get more comprehensive data and insights into consumers’ wellness lifestyles, food culture and weight management with these Hartman Group exclusive reports and eating trends in food culture:
As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.