CHICAGO — Generation Z consumers favor all-day breakfast meal concepts, according to the latest Y-Pulse report from its School Meal Innovation Lab.
In its latest study, 900 K-12 students evaluated 10 new menu concepts that met school meal nutritional requirements and were created by a team of chefs and dietitians.
The meal concepts rated highest were:
Banana Berry Smoothie — A creamy smoothie made with berries, banana, yogurt, milk and topped with fresh fruit and homemade granola (77 percent);
Overnight Oatmeal — Creamy and hearty overnight oats in milk, layered with fresh fruit and yogurt, ready to grab on the go (64 percent); and
Tex-Mex Breakfast Bowl — A breakfast bowl with a blend of eggs, cheese and beans served on top of roasted potatoes, peppers and onions, with salsa on the side (61 percent).
Each of the top meal concepts fit in with all-day breakfast menus. Study participants evaluated these concepts based on photographs and menu descriptions, but did not know that they met school foodservice guidelines.
"While we introduced a variety of menu concepts, it was interesting to see that the kids really gravitated towards items that were great for all-day breakfast, brunch and snacking," said Sharon Olson, executive director of Y-Pulse. "Today's kids' interest in all-day breakfast and snacking shows us that this is an area operators should pay close attention to in the years to come."
The study revealed three main takeaways:
1. Grab-and-Go: Consumers between ages 8-18 consistently liked items that are easy to eat on the go. Overnight Oatmeal and Banana Berry Smoothies were served in handy containers that were easy to hold and carry around, while the Tex-Men Breakfast Bowl was served in a transportable bowl that was also convenient to eat on the go.
2. Healthy Halo: Along with enjoying foods that are both familiar and adventurous, Generation Z consumers are inclined toward foods they perceive as healthy. All of the top menu concepts included easy-to-identify ingredients that were perceived as healthy.
3. Familiar With a Twist: Study participants between ages 8-18 liked familiar ingredients presented with a culinary twist. With Overnight Oatmeal, a familiar breakfast staple was served cold instead of hot and grab-and-go was encouraged, while the Banana Berry Smoothie was given a different texture with the addition of granola topping. The Tex-Mex Breakfast Bowl gave the familiar meal of eggs a different flavor combination by using Mexican ingredients and spices.
The School Innovation Lab initiative launched in 2014 and is designed to provide a glimpse into the under-18 consumer's tastes and culinary preferences. While foodservice operators can incorporate these insights to add value to kids' menus today, they can also use them to understand menu trends that are potentially popular tomorrow, according to Y-Pulse.
A division of Olson Communications, Y-Pulse is a research and consulting practice that specializes in helping companies in the food business better understand tomorrow's tastemakers today.