The Breakfast Wars Are Back

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The Breakfast Wars Are Back

By Angela Hanson, Convenience Store News - 06/24/2014

CHICAGO – Despite seeing a slowdown in growth last year, the breakfast daypart remains fairly strong, with solid potential for the future.

From 2007 to 2012, breakfast outpaced the overall industry with a 2.6-percent gain compared to a 0.4-percent gain, respectively, with approximately two-thirds of that growth coming from limited-service restaurants. Today, full-service restaurants are struggling at breakfast as consumers choose options that are faster and cheaper, and consumer interest in overall breakfast outside the home has lessened slightly as they don't see anything new.

"Nothing's really hooked them,"  Technomic Inc. Principal Wade Hanson said Tuesday during the latest installment in the "Technomic Talks" webinar series, titled "Breakfast: A Holistic View." Hanson guided attendees through the latest innovations and consumer opinions as the morning competition heats up, noting that Technomic still "view[s] the potential for breakfast as solid going forward."

The latest developments in the daypart include new entrants, such as Taco Bell and its recently launched breakfast program.  Taco Bell executives have declined to give exact sales figures, but claim the program is off to a "great start." Some analysts even speculated that the recent slump in McDonald's breakfast sales was due to new competition. 

Top new concepts include biscuits and doughnut variations, along with products influenced by ethnic cuisines, while notable trends include lighter/healthier options, premium ingredients, an emphasis on value all along the price spectrum, and customization.

Younger consumers particularly value customization. "They want breakfast prepared the way they want it," Hanson said, and they "will go to other operations if they have to."

On the retail side, "convenience stores have always been a big player in the breakfast daypart and continue to be so," according to Hanson. Technomic is also seeing more development on the supermarket side. Both channels continue to introduce new packaged food, but interest in breakfast is centered on prepared food, with many retailers committing to their foodservice programs despite barriers to entry and past failures.

To retain the interest of existing breakfast customers and attract new ones, retailers should educate themselves on consumers' evolving opinions. They are more interested in eating breakfast away from home, especially due to their busy schedules, and 68 percent say grabbing a to-go breakfast is more convenient than eating at home. Consumers also associate breakfast with health and consider it important to eat a nutritious meal in the morning.

Overall, Technomic research shows that while breakfast will continue to perform, its momentum is slowing so innovation will be especially critical. Both operator and consumer demands are high, but by satisfying them, consumers will be more likely to make breakfast part of their routine -- meaning a sunnier future for the morning daypart.