Americans recognize - but ignore - importance of breakfast, survey

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Breakfast Nutrition

Although most Americans agree in the importance of consuming
breakfast, the majority of consumers say they do not have the time
for it, according to a new survey.

Conducted by Impulse Research Service on behalf of consumer goods company Heinz, the survey revealed that 85 percent of Americans agree that eating breakfast is important.

However, busy schedules and an increasingly fast-paced lifestyle have meant that Americans increasingly miss out on this meal, and having breakfasts together as a family has also become a rare experience.

The new survey, which was conducted in June 2006 and gathered responses from around 1,500 adults throughout the US, found that more than 60 percent of consumers say it is "too hard"​ to find the time to have breakfast as a family.

And some 40 percent of families never prepare hot breakfasts during the week, while half of all families surveyed said they missed out on breakfasts together, even at weekends.

Indeed, the need for convenience in the breakfast sector is nothing new, and has in recent years played a key role in new product innovation.

According to industry expert and vice president of the market research firm NPD Group Harry Balzer, "cereal at one time was a convenient, hearty, healthy breakfast. But because of modern-day time constraints, it's just not as convenient as it was perceived to be 20 years ago, primarily because it can't be eaten on the go."

Cereal bars went part of the way to addressing this concern, but consumers need a "fuller"​ breakfast, he said, adding that one way to make cereal an on-the-go item is to serve it with yogurt instead of milk. This is already being seen in certain restaurants, but the key is to market the product as a cereal rather than as a yogurt.

According to NPD figures, the most popular breakfast items remain coffee and cereals, with yogurt also growing in popularity despite not being a traditional option for breakfast.

And figures published by Packaged Facts reveal that breakfast foods gained $367 million in retail value in 2004 to approach the $24.5 billion mark, following a $985 million gain the previous year.

The group projected that the breakfast foods market will enjoy considerably greater growth in the second half of this decade than it did in the 2000-2004 period, reaching $28.1 billion.

As in other product categories, the overriding trend in recent breakfast food product introductions is toward healthier fare. This trend encompasses foods that offer higher nutritional value, purer ingredients, foods to help people lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, and foods formulated to inhibit the development of certain diseases.

According to Simmons Market Research Bureau data, 18.5 percent of US adults consider breakfast to be the most important meal of the day, with those over 65 and people in higher income households more likely to start the day with a meal.

One of the biggest challenges facing marketers of packaged breakfast foods in the coming year may be ramped-up competition from the foodservice side, especially at the quick-service restaurant level.

"Several QSRs have already begun to expand their offerings for the morning crowd, and roughly half of the new products are grab-and-go items designed for fast-feeding including 'dashboard dining,"​ according to the Packaged Facts report, published last year.

And a study published last year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association once again stressed the importance of the first meal of the day, revealing that girls who skip breakfast are more likely to miss out on dietary sources of calcium and fiber than those who regularly eat it.

The study was not the first time the American Dietetic Association has taken America to task over its young people's breakfast habits. Earlier last year, its journal contained a review of 47 articles investigating links between breakfast, nutrition, body weight and academic or cognitive function.

Although individual study results were inconsistent, overall it found that breakfast consumption may be associated with more healthful body weights in children and adolescents; that skipping breakfast is common in overweight or obese children, and may be related to dieting or eating disorders; that those who don't eat breakfast are less likely to engage in physical activity, resulting in positive energy balance and weight gain; and that breakfast consumption may positively affect cognitive function.

Although many ready-to-eat cereals (which are often served with milk) are fortified with vitamins and minerals, most of the studies examined did not make it clear whether they are responsible for the overall observed benefits of eating breakfast.

Moreover ready-to-eat cereals - especially those aimed at children - tend to contain more sugar and refined grains.

"To maximize the potential benefits of breakfast consumption, it is important to distinguish between simply promoting breakfast versus the consumption of a healthful breakfast,"​ wrote the review authors.

"Breakfast should include a variety of healthful foods that are high in nutritive value yet do not provide excess energy."

Related topics Cereals and bakery preparations

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