The Dawn of a New Age for Breakfast

As efficiency in the morning becomes top priority, breakfasts are becoming an increasingly on-the-go affair. At the same time, consumers are looking for more natural, low-processed foods that can satisfy their desires for a healthy and well-rounded meal.

Isabelle Rupani
9 min readMar 14, 2021

This article was originally published in November of 2018 as part of Minerva Insights’ monthly Global Insights report. This copy serves as a sample only.

Table of breakfast spreads including waffles, avocado toast, coffee and and juice

Dine and Dash

When was the last time you woke up on a weekday and headed straight to the stove to prepare yourself some bacon and eggs? Did you time it just right so that your bread was toasted by the time the bacon finished sizzling?

Probably not — and it’s probably been a while since you did so. According to Harris Interactive, 83% of consumers will spend less than 6 minutes on breakfast on a weekday. Work and sleep are just higher priorities than a homemade meal. This means that most people are eating ready-made breakfast foods, if they’re eating breakfast at all.

Millennials in particular are eating breakfast on the go — or at work — at a rate of around 40%. They are simultaneously seeking high nutritional quality from their food, which has led to a decline in sales for many high-carb and high-sugar breakfast foods , including yoghurt and certain types of cereal. However, breakfast as a category overall is growing, broadening the opportunity for innovative products which meet both the convenience and health needs of the generation. The percentage of people aged 25–34 who are eating breakfast on-the-go is increasing at a rate of around 31% per year.

A healthy breakfast option will not simply avoid sugar and artificial ingredients, but will constitute a fulfilling meal to carry today’s average worker through a busy morning. Last year in the UK, the number of breakfast foods chosen for their nutritional value increased by 17%, while foods chosen for being natural or ‘less processed’ increased by 23%.

Breakfast at the work desk is becoming increasingly common.

The Morning Scramble

Eggs are making a notable resurgence as a popular breakfast food because of their natural abundance of nutrients and ease of cooking. The percentage of eggs consumed at the breakfast table in the UK has gone up by 2.3% in the last year. 62% of all eggs in the US are consumed in the morning, and over the course of 2016, precooked hard-boiled eggs experienced a 23.4% increase in sales.

Part of this increase can be explained by the fact that eggs are a versatile ingredient which can be cooked in many ways with many different preparation times. Eggs also have a certain aestheticism and health value which make them part of more “Instagrammable” meals, leading to their status in the top 10 hashtagged foods on Instagram.

Eggs cooked sunny-side up with fresh pepper
Eggs are high-protein and make for an Instagram-friendly breakfast.

Today’s eaters are more conscious of where their food comes from, leading to an 81.2% average annual increase in ethical claims for global product launches between 2012 and 2016, and contributing to the uptick in claims of organic, cage-free, and free-range eggs.

High protein and low sugar are key nutritional factors which make eggs such an appealing breakfast ingredient. It helps that eggs are a non-processed food, but this also means that preparation time is higher, leaving plenty of room in the market for ready-to-go meals that offer the same benefits.

High Sugar, Low Sales: The Pro-Protein Era

Many people eating on the go or at work will grab cereal, yoghurt, and/or a fruit, or pick up a breakfast sandwich on the way. But traditional yoghurts and cereals have a high sugar content that is becoming less and less appealing to shoppers as years go by, lending to a growing need for more fulfilling, equally convenient products.

Yoghurt consumption has seen a decline in recent years, and children especially have been eating yoghurt on fewer occasions, again likely due to high sugar content. But even some lower sugar products, such as Müller Light and Activia, are facing declines due to range cuts.

Besides, “health” goes beyond low sugar — there’s a desire for higher fiber and protein, as well as minimal sugar and fat while also being low-processed. Greek yoghurt and skyr are gaining traction as lower fat, higher protein yoghurts. The Collective Dairy has experienced significant growth because of they are marketed as allnatural, and their “Pro-yo” brand features low sugar and a high protein content comparable to that of two eggs. Arla also attributes much of its growth — 10.3% over the course of 2017 — to its Protein brand yoghurt.

Arla’s Protein brand yoghurt in Raspberry, Strawberry, and Blueberry flavours, featuring 20g of protein per serving at 1.25 GBP.

Yoghurt drinks have experienced the most decline out of yoghurt products; in fact, breakfast drinks across the board are experiencing decline. No matter how nutritionally rich a breakfast drink might be, it often fails to meet up to most people’s expectations of what a meal should be. But as preparation time gets shorter and shorter, many hold out hope that there will be an upswing for breakfast drinks in years to come.

Lizi’s Breakfast Drink recently launched under Pioneer Foods the UK in August 2018 in Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry as a competitor to leading brand Weetabix. The drinks come in at only 2.5g of sugar per 100g. Quaker Breakfast Drink was also introduced in July in Vanilla and Red Berries at 11g of protein with wholegrain oats, “highlighting the milk and wholegrain content” in order to stave off the assumption that breakfast drinks are too processed, according to Quaker senior marketing manager Steph Okell.

Lizi’s Breakfast Drink, in 3 flavours — 1.49 GBP per 250 mL bottle. Quaker Breakfast Drinks — RRP 1.45 GBP per 300 mL bottle.

While overall cereal consumption has gone up in recent years, there are clear trends away from the more traditional high-sugar cereal, and cereal’s considerable household penetration is unlikely to hold up without changes. Millennials in particular are choosing to eat cereal less and less often, usually opting for more convenient offerings — especially as most cereal, on its own, lacks the nutritional quality that these consumers are searching for in a full breakfast.

Lisa Desforges of branding agency B&B studio explains, “As the trend towards increased protein intake helps drives the resurgence of eggs, traditionally carb-heavy alternatives need to rethink their message.” This means innovation on the nutrition front, and a focus on health benefits such as fiber that are not offset by the typical high sugar content that has been seen in cereals in past years. Brands will need to work at this, as many cereal brands have a history of disguising or ignoring their sugar content in marketing.

The data is not equal for all cereal. In the UK, private brand cereals have experienced considerable growth as name brands fall. Kantar analyst George Moore claims that “The longerterm growth of private label in ready-to-eat cereal can be attributed to Aldi and Lidl,” and is “bolstered by the big four pushing private label, most notably Tesco.” Private brands succeed not only when they can offer high quality at low cost, but when they can explore newer and more nutritional avenues for their cereals.

Let’s Get Natural

Some companies have begun innovating new, natural cereals to appeal to the current generation of consumers. One example of this is Oakland-based company Back to the Roots, whose Organic Purple Corn Flakes boast only three ingredients: Minnesota-grown purple corn, cane sugar, and sea salt. Australian brand Barley+ features 16g of fiber and 7g of protein per serving in their Toasted Museli products, which come in four different flavours. The use of “ancient grains” and “super grains” such as amaranth, quinoa, puffed spelt, and Khorasan in newer cereals have both a health and newness factor.

Purple Corn Flakes from Back to the Roots, 4.99 USD per carton. Barley+ Toasted Museli, RRP 6.49 USD per box.

Slow cooker breakfasts and overnight oats have grown in popularity because they result in the warmth and quality of a freshly home-cooked meal while requiring little preparation in the morning. In 2017, McCormick & Co. released several Good Morning Slow Cooker Breakfast Seasoning Mixes, in four flavours: Apple Cinnamon French Toast, Mexican Egg Casserole, Peaches and Cream Oatmeal, and Ultimate Egg Casserole. There remains potential for more exploration in slow cooker breakfasts.

Overnight oats, which dominate the breakfast scene on social media because of the health factor, and which benefit from being highly customizable, are a fast-growing product. Alpro, a plant-based innovation company, owes two-thirds of its growth to their overnight oats. Overnight oat products have recently developed so that they can be made overnight or with hot water in the morning; having both options makes the food more popular for those who might forget to prep or lack the time to do so in the evenings. Oats continue to gain traction as a high-fiber, low-processed food.

Thinking Outside the Egg Carton

According to Technomic, there are an increasing number of breakfast offerings in restaurants which utilize typically non-breakfast foods such as pizza and burgers, creating an area which retail has yet to try and seriously break into.

Exploring these products and others could boost a stagnating frozen breakfast market. Again, it is tradition which is the enemy here: Kellogg’s Eggo brand of waffles saw sales decline by 2% last year, but their other brand Kashi saw its whole-grain frozen waffles increase by 37.2%. Nature’s Path Foods experienced a similar increase in sales at 32.2% with its Organic waffles.

Nestlé’s Sweet Earth Natural Foods saw a 55.1% jump in sales for its breakfast burritos, of which are there four varieties: Get Cultured!, Get Focused!, Lighten Up!, and Protein Lover’s. The Get Cultured! burrito capitalizes on the consumer’s desire for fresh, interesting, global tastes, a topic expanded upon in the August edition of this report. Inspired by Korean flavours, it utilizes cabbage, red pepper, tofu, edamame, and ginger.

One of Sweet Earth‘s four breakfast burrito offerings, retailing between 2.50 USD and 3.50 USD

New products such as Kellogg’s Joyböl, which is now out in the US and UK, are looking to further fill this gap between nutritional and fast. This mix of grains, nuts, seeds and fruit targets the on-the-go millennial in terms of both nutrition and convenience — just add water, and a full smoothie bowl is ready to eat at the desk. Smoothie bowls have been a popular food among the younger generation for a few years now, but have been mostly limited to homemade or restaurant offerings: Kellogg’s is capitalizing on yet another breakfast trend that has yet to make it big in retail, but which shows obvious potential.

Kellogg’s Joyböl retails at 1.99 USD

Breakfast has long been touted as the most important meal of the day. This is becoming increasingly true for today’s customers, even as they have less and less time to prepare in the morning. It is more important than ever to provide effective solutions to the consumer’s quest for healthy and convenient breakfast choices.

Key Points

  • Consumers are spending less and less time preparing breakfast, especially millennials — most under 6 minutes
  • Shoppers seek convenience and well-rounded nutrition from breakfast products
  • High-sugar cereals and yoghurt sales are declining in favour of high-fiber, high-protein products
  • Consumers are on the lookout for natural and organic labels
  • Question your idea of what a breakfast food should be. Unique products can catch the eye of people who are bored of traditional breakfast fare
[For each Trend Spotlight, I would write up 3–4 pages of products which exemplified the trend.]