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Breakfast is an important meal of the day for c-stores


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Most of us are familiar with the slew of well-known phrases that, for decades, have been imprinted into the eating culture of Canadians. In addition to ‘spinach will make you strong like Popeye’ and  ‘carrots will improve your eyesight’, one of the most well worn phrases in the cultural consumption arsenal is ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. 

While many of us have grown up believing that skipping breakfast is a blasphemous corruption of dietary obedience, Ipsos FIVE daily consumption tracking study reports over the past year reveal that a quarter of Canadians skip breakfast during an average day. This skipping rate has risen 20% (more than four points) in just the past three years.

Given considerable changes in both eating patterns and item choices during that time, the big question is: What is happening at breakfast?

Deferring breakfast to morning snack

As consumers face the daily early morning gauntlet of hectic commuting schedules, competing family priorities or forgoing breakfast to get a bit of extra sleep, we have often assumed that most of these consumers simply defer their breakfast to the later less frenetic morning snack occasion.

However, this is not always the case. Ipsos FIVE data reports that the majority of those skipping breakfast simply do not eat until lunch, back-end loading their daily eating choices—opting to not eat less, but just to eat later.

This presents new challenges, particularly for traditional morning foods and beverages, such as cereal, yogurt and milk, all of which are heavily dependent on their inclusion in an ever-shrinking universe of early day consumption occasions.

New dietary regimes

Ipsos FIVE’s daily tracking of what individuals eat and drink reveals that, while three-quarters of consumers believe that breakfast remains an important occasion, there is a new school of thought emerging, one that challenges whether or not the first meal of the day should remain a priority occasion. 

Undoubtedly, the rising popularity of new eating regimes, including morning fasting (which now ranks third among alternative eating regimes) and adherence to dairy-free diets (which ranks second), are clearly influencing early day eating decisions.

Additionally, changes in the ‘how’ may also be contributing to the de-prioritization of breakfast, including shifting togetherness habits at the morning breakfast table.  Today, almost two-thirds of first meal (breakfast) occasions are consumed alone, which begs the question: How much time, effort and dollars are consumers willing to invest for a party of one?

Slow movement to foodservice

Although contemporary dietary and cultural trends have altered Canadians’ morning consumption patterns, the five morning H’s (hunger, health, habit, hearty and hurry) remain critical to shaping our food choices in the morning, especially as a wider variety of channels are entering the battle to win a share of stomach at breakfast.

With only a slim array of portable breakfast options available, one in five morning occasions are now sourced from foodservice operators, led by strong growth in fast food restaurants (QSR) over the past five years.

While the quest for convenience remains a priority for many time-starved consumers opting to pair their morning hot beverage with an evolving array of foods offered away from home, foodservice operators will need to remain committed to also meeting consumers’ needs for high quality options, including clean labels and nutrient dense benefits.

The rise of early day hearty, warmth and satiation needs

The focus on evolving wellness goals in the morning has also given rise to the importance and prioritization of choices that serve to meet a growing variety of functional health needs, while providing distinct emotional benefits.  

Warming satiation, comfort, gut health, physical energy and mental focus have risen to the top of early morning needs, with consumers trading out traditional food favourites, such as eggs, bacon, pancakes, bagels and vegetables.   

Food and beverage manufacturers, retailers and foodservice operators who want to win the battle for breakfast in the dawn of this new era, should consider creating intentional experiences that are engaging and enjoyable and serve to discourage meal skipping.  

Consider movement beyond traditional sweet food. Instead, focus on offering savoury options with a fresh and global varietal flair that fills nourishes and delights consumers, while also building a new level of interest and engagement in the still-important breakfast occasion.

Kathy Perrotta is a vice-president with Ipsos Market Strategy and Understanding, working with the Food & Beverage Group Syndicated Services.  Data sources within this group include, Ipsos FIVE and Foodservice Monitor (FSM). Ipsos FIVE is an ongoing daily tracking of consumption behaviour, attitudes, situational dynamics, health statuses, preparation and shopping habits that influence item choice for more than 20,000 individuals annually across all dayparts, categories/brands and venues. Ipsos FSM is a daily tracking of purchases, habits and motivations at all foodservice segments and at branded operators among more than 36,000 individuals annually. 

Originally published in the May/June issue of Convenience Store News Canada. 

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