Breakfast: the end of an era?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Breakfast, Datamonitor

It is an undeniable truth of the western world that the days of
'going to work on an egg' are fast disappearing into the
advertisement archives of the 1970s. Busier working lives, eating
for energy rather than pleasure and more women at work are just a
few reasons that might explain the decreasing presence of the
breakfast table. And yet, most nutritionists would claim that we
should 'breakfast as a king'. A new report from Datamonitor for
Reuters Business Insight confirms the decreasing popularity of
breakfast at home, in favour of the 'deskfast' - a new term to
describe brekky at the desk.

It is an undeniable truth of the western world that the days of 'going to work on an egg' are fast disappearing into the advertisement archives of the 1970s. Busier working lives, eating for energy rather than pleasure and more women at work are just a few reasons that might explain the decreasing presence of the breakfast table.

And yet, most nutritionists would claim that we should 'breakfast as a king'. A new report on British breakfast habits from Datamonitor for Reuters Business Insight confirms the decreasing popularity of breakfast at home, in favour of the 'deskfast' - a new term to describe brekky at the desk.

Apparently, office canteens are the big growth area in the breakfast market as employers are keen to encourage employees to arrive at work early.

In addition, retailers are pushing premium priced on-the-go breakfast options to busy workers and even vendingmachines will soon be getting in on the act as new technology will enable food to bechilled or frozen and then toasted or baked.

Children, the report adds, are also being heavily targeted with processed options that satisfy parental convenience and excite children.

For the cash-rich, time-poor consumer, on-the-go breakfast consumption and 'deskfasts' are fast becoming the chosen option. Manufacturers are moving into this area in order to recover lost revenues fromdeclining at-home consumption, claims the report. It adds that a breakdown in social rules with consumers less embarrassed about eating in public places or in front of work colleagues has also contributed to the trend. But it is fair to say that this is not a new discovery. For many years the British snacking-on-the-street culture has been well established, with little or no recognisable shame about eating in public.

Datamonitor​ writes that large breakfasts at home are becoming less common, with consumers insteadopting to wake up later or get to work earlier. Rather, the breakfastoccasion is deconstructed into a series of snacking opportunities - perhapsstarting with some food for the journey to work, but almost certainlyfeaturing bakery products and confectionery that are eaten in the workplace.

Large packaging formats are gaining popularity as these snacks can be kepton the desk or on a journey - to fend off any hunger pangs duringthe day.

According to the report, some retailers have responded to the breakfast opportunity with improved category management - placing all breakfast foods together in an easilyaccessible 'breakfast zone' that is packed with new breakfast foodsas well as many of the established retail options such as cereal, bakery,dairy products and fresh fruit.

While many consumers are often confused byretailer initiatives to group products by meal occasion rather than by foodtype, the approach encourages the consumer to upgrade to premiumalternatives that the consumer may not have seen previously.

The vending machine is set to evolve beyond the chocolate or canned drinkdispenser that has proven popular for snack foods in the past. Futurevending machines will facilitate new breakfast options using technology thatallows food to be chilled or frozen and then toasted or baked to make indulgent breakfast options that can compete with the taste offoodservice options.

On the foodservice side, as employers encourage their staff to start earlier, office canteens are the big growth area in the breakfast market. Contract caterersare keen to realise a new revenue opportunity without additional investment,and employees are keen to have an enjoyable and cost-effective breakfastprepared for them, claims the report. As the proportion of work place canteens that areoperated by the major independent caterers continues to rise, it is expectedthat many more consumers will be offered an attractive workplace breakfastoption.

So during the week we are far​ too busy to take the time to eat a bowl of cereal, but what about the weekend? According to Datamonitor, retreating from the pressure of the working week, there has been an upsurgein demand for more enjoyable and indulgent weekend breakfast options wherethe consumer can take the time to relax with friends and family.

Additionally, the greater proliferation of premium and exotic products hasincreased the desire of consumers to assemble their own indulgent breakfast.

And are we indulging in that stalwart of British cuisine - the great British fry-up? Apparently not. Deemed unhealthy, the traditional eggs, bacon, sausages and baked beans has suffered from a long-term decline and is currently competing against healthy options. Although consumers are prepared to indulge in a more leisurely breakfast at the weekend, as a reaction against the frugal diet forced on them during theweek, sizzling bacon is not the number one choice.

According to the report, the abundance of other, healthier premium breakfast options means that that many consumers are looking for a variety of health foods for an indulgent weekend breakfast - which may include fresh fruits,smoothies and organic muesli.

However, for those looking for a convenient fry-up,manufacturers have moved on from breakfast-in-a-can to providing frozenoptions, with Tesco Frozen Breakfast Platter and Iceland All Day Breakfastbeing two examples in the UK.

The report moves on to claim that although cereal consumption is relatively high in Scandinavia, France andGermany, it is consumers in the UK and the United States who have reallyadopted cereals as the mainstream breakfast option.

Breakfast cerealsaccount for about a quarter of total breakfast spending in the UK and theUnited States, compared to levels below 10 per cent in continental Europe. However,value growth in the largest cereal markets is under threat, not only fromdropping at-home breakfast consumption, but also from private labelalternatives. In fact, private label manufacturers like Dailycer, havehelped evolve the role of private label away from the traditional 'me too'image, into market innovators with heavy investment in new productdevelopment.

Following the British love of cereal, the UK is a fast growing market forcereal bars, with sales growth exceeding 16 per cent per annum over the last fiveyears and the largest overall market for cereal bars in Europe. This ismainly due to the launch of Rice Krispies Squares, claims Datamonitor, and heavy advertising forNutriGrain. NutriGrain's strapline has been changed from 'breakfaston-the-go' to 'food to go' in a deliberate effort to broaden the product'sappeal to other times of day. Frusli, a new softer textured cereal bar, hasalso been selling well and benefits from Jordan's strong association withnatural, healthy ingredients.

Is this the end of the bacon sandwich?

Related topics: Market Trends

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