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Healthy, flavourful and convenient breakfast foods serve up opportunities for grocers

Not everyone considers breakfast to be the most important meal of the day. But ask anyone to name their favourite comfort foods, and breakfast items are likely on the list. After all, traditional breakfast choices such as oatmeal, bacon and eggs, or pancakes with maple syrup are filling and comforting, while new favourites like egg wraps make for the perfect portable meal. As eating occasions for breakfast items continue to grow, grocers can make the most of the breakfast food sales by meeting consumer demand for healthy, flavourful and convenient alternatives.

In the May 2018 Insights article "Canadians Favour Healthy Breakfasts," Nielsen discovered that although only 18% of consumers skip breakfast, 65% are “finding it challenging to eat right.” And the firm’s Panelviews survey (April 2017) of almost 6,000 Canadians revealed consumers want breakfast foods that are: flavourful (53%); filling (52%); high in protein (50%); high in fibre (47%); low in sugar (40%); made with whole grains (33%); low in sodium (31%); low in fat (28%); made with healthy fats like avocado, coconut, nuts or seeds (26%); and can be eaten any time of day, such as pancakes or eggs (22%). At the same time, Nielsen says 54% of Canadians spend just “ five minutes or less on breakfast preparation,” meaning they’re more likely to look for grab-and-go items such as fruit and cereal bars.

“Consumers are looking for satiating breakfast options that include protein and fibre,” agrees packaged foods specialist Birgit Blain, principal at Toronto’s Birgit Blain & Associates. “Convenience— speed and ease of preparation—is a main driver, together with taste, value, portability, nutrition and food sensitivities and allergies.”

As the boundaries between meal occasions continue to blend, breakfast items are also coming out on top as a favourite for lunch, dinner and all-day snacking. Ipsos Marketing found that 42% of eating occasions for breakfast foods are now consumed at other times of the day. Younger Canadians are driving this interest in all-day breakfast: Ipsos notes millennials are the demographic most often choosing traditional breakfast foods like toast, bacon and eggs as a cheap and cheerful, family-friendly dinner.

Not surprisingly, bacon and eggs top Nielsen’s list of growing breakfast staples. According to Neilsen MarketTrack, dollar sales of both proteins jumped 5% in the 52 weeks ending Mar. 31, 2018, followed by increases in fruit and hot cereals (4%), breakfast/cereal bars (3%), frozen breakfasts (2%), and packaged sausages (1%). Meanwhile, sales of packaged bread fell 2%, and both yogurt and pancake and waffle mix fell 1%.

Manufacturers are taking note and developing a variety of convenient, protein-packed breakfast foods. Burnbrae Farms’ new Egg Bakes! Egg Patties and Egg White Patties, for instance, make for easy microwaved breakfast sandwiches in just 75 seconds, offering six grams of protein per patty. And the Lyn, Ont.- based company’s new Egg Bakes! Crustless Quiche provides between nine and 13-grams of protein per quiche, available in five flavours including Cheddar, Mushroom and Bacon, as well as Spinach, Ricotta and Carmelized Onion.

Mann Packing Company also recently expanded its popular Nourish Bowls line to include Nourish Bowls Breakfast. The new packs allow consumers to create a home-cooked breakfast in just four minutes by combining eggs with the mix of pre-cut vegetables and toppings inspired by global flavours.

“The breakfast items consumers most identify as healthy include fruits, vegetables, milk, oatmeal, eggs and yogurt,” says Loree Dowse, director of creative marketing for Mann Packing, who notes that the new bowls are low-calorie and high-protein. They’re available in two varieties: Denver Scramble (kale, sweet potato, cauliflower and broccoli, with a bell pepper sauce with diced ham and onion and a cheddar cheese topping), and Fiesta Scramble (kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi and butternut squash, with a pico de gallo salsa with chicken chorizo and a Mexican cheese blend topping).

At The Big Carrot Community Market in Toronto, marketing manager Sarah Dobec says when it comes to breakfast, “our customer base is motivated by healthy choices, so we see an interest in fresh, organic ingredients.” As for traditional proteins such as eggs and bacon, she says, “we have seen an increased interest in organic options as well as meat raised humanely.”

Dobec also notes that cereals and breads are being adapted to meet evolving consumer demands, with an increase in paleo, gluten-free and high-protein offerings. “Muffins are still a very popular breakfast item, but we now offer more gluten-free, grain-free, and paleo options.” Dobec also sees growth potential in portable items like mason jar breakfasts featuring layers of yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, hemp seeds, and warm bone broth beverages “that sustaining throughout the morning.”

According to Fona International’s Breakfast Trends: Health on Top, released in April 2018, other convenient breakfast foods with momentum include overnight oats with nutritious ingredients like chia; toast spreads featuring purées of seasonal vegetables and herbs; and morning beverages with functional ingredients like turmeric and matcha.

Fru-V Smoothie Kits from Stouffville, Ont.-based Health Addict are another example of breakfast items focused on ease of use and health benefits. Owner
Carrie Darmaga sees convenience and nutrition as the top two demands when it comes to breakfast. “Unfortunately, many will put convenience before nutrition, as there are few truly healthy options for on the go,” she says.

Darmaga created Fru-V Smoothies as a fast, whole food alternative “loaded with veggies and superfood ingredients.” The blender-ready fruit and vegetable smoothie kits include three to four grams of protein per serving, and are free of refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours, making them ideal for busy families. There are currently two varieties—Berry-Veggie with Acai Purée, Flax, Goji Berries and Hemp Protein; and Tropical-Veggie with Flax, Spirulina and Hemp Protein—and Darmaga says two new flavours, chocolate and carrot-ginger, are in the works.

Health Addict does both in-store demonstrations and sampling, something that helps shoppers connect with innovative products that are redefining the breakfast category. Nielsen also recommends boosting sales of breakfast items by “communicating health characteristics to consumers via shelf talkers or point-of-purchase material about desirable attributes like high in protein and fibre.”

To “lure shoppers away from visiting quick-service restaurants for their daily breakfast,” Blain suggests that grocers “promote the wide variety of options to ‘start your day’ in all departments—from fresh to frozen to centre store. Cross-merchandise and cross-promote fresh and dry grocery pairings.”

The Big Carrot offers a juice bar to catch busy morning shoppers, which Dobec says is “busy in the morning making hearty smoothies,” and its Beach location offers its own grab-and-go breakfast wraps “often paired with an organic, fair trade, bird-friendly coffee.” Breakfast items “are in a beautiful display so that customers can easily add to their order,” says Dobec. “Our customers are on the go, so we are targeting the busy but healthy

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’s December/January 2019 issue.

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