Consumers are becoming more interested in breakfast meats and sandwiches – either eaten at home or on the go. In turn, breakfast has seen a resurgence in savory recently, giving rise to increased meat consumption in the morning hours.

“Consumers look for food that will give them sustained energy at breakfast time,” says Nick Meyers, retainer services consultant for The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash. “Protein is key here and has been instrumental in the rise of breakfast meats in consumer esteem.” 

In turn, unit sales of breakfast meats increased 2.9 percent during the past year, while overall consumer product goods’ (CPG) sales were basically flat (down 0.3 percent), according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc.’s (IRI) multi-outlet geography. Dollar sales grew 5.2 percent versus industry dollar sales growth of 2.4 percent with meat inflation a factor. Overall breakfast solutions, including categories such as frozen breakfast foods, cold cereal, snack/granola bars, pastries/doughnuts and yogurt, account for more than 12 percent of CPG sales, IRI reports.

Bacon accounts for 67 percent of the breakfast meats category, IRI reports, followed by breakfast sausage at 31 percent and ham at 2 percent. Breakfast sausage was purchased by 87 percent of U.S. households, a figure that is flat verses a year ago, IRI says.

Breakfast has become a big focus among consumers who want to eat healthier, as demonstrated by the fact that 37 percent of the most powerful new food launches hail from the breakfast solutions arena, according to IRI’s 2014 New Product Pacesetters report. As a point of comparison, the next highest is dinner solutions, accounting for 15 percent of top new food launch dollars.

In trying to get off to that good start, more than half (52 percent) of consumers actively seek protein at breakfast, followed by 51 percent of consumers seeking fiber, and 41 percent seeking whole grains, reports The Hartman Compass 2013. Many consumers also avoid fat at breakfast (36 percent).

“A key category that meets both the positive protein and negative fat needs is yogurt, which may be the biggest competitor for breakfast meats in the breakfast daypart today,” Meyers explains.  “That said, we see consumers focusing less on fat when it comes from a good source, i.e., perceived as higher quality. Consumers don’t mind consuming higher fat when it is in the form of grass-fed butter, whole milk from cows not treated from rBST, or meat from pasture-raised, organic-fed animals. Ensuring high-quality standards of meat is the best way to meet this threat head on.”

This year, more than anything, handheld breakfast sandwiches are moving, says Emily Balsamo, a U.S. analyst for Euromonitor, Chicago.

“Partial-year data shows other frozen breakfast categories as declining while meaty handhelds are increasing,” she says. “Commentators are pointing to the higher levels of protein and protein-centric marketing as driving this growth over other breakfast products.”

This goes hand-in-hand with Paleo diet thinking, i.e., the more natural ingredients the better, regardless of calorie count or fat. Euromonitor has been seeing this trend in retail and foodservice, Balsamo says.

“Consumers are looking for natural, high-protein ingredients and often heavy on the meat,” she says. Within retail sausages, Johnsonville has been doing very well relative to the pack, and private label is expanding their sausage offering as well, Balsamo says.

“Generally, the market for meat ebbs and flows, and it seems like 2014-15 are years of high sales,” she says.

New starts to the day

Innovation-wise, consumers love novel ideas in the breakfast meat category, Meyers says. High-performing offerings at retail and quick-service restaurants show this, from Taco Bell’s new breakfast menu to Hillshire Brands’ Jimmy Dean brand’s continued innovation in the frozen breakfast-sandwich space, he says.

Innovation in the breakfast-meat category is largely around flavor, novelty, and health and wellness. For example, Jimmy Dean recently introduced a Steak and Egg Breakfast Bowl, Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick, and Pancakes and Sausage Bites. Boulder Brands’ Evol released eight new breakfast sandwiches and burritos in flavors such as Chicken Apple Sausage, Egg, Smoked Gouda, Caramelized Onion and Roasted Potato.

“Flavor-wise, consumers are showing interest in more emerging flavors, not just your traditional maple,” Meyers says. “Flavors incorporating fruits and savory herbs like sage are gaining consumer interest.”

Spice, as shown by the ubiquity of sriracha, and authentic flavors, favored by millennials, are overall foodservice and retail breakfast-meat trends, Euromonitor’s Balsamo says.

Fairpoint, N.Y.-based Datamonitor’s Innovation Insights Director Tom Vierhile agrees that innovation seems to be focused on flavors, including hotter and spicier flavors, as well as products that are more healthful, using ingredients such as fruit and kale to improve the health perception of meat. 

“It is a good bet that we’ll see more flavor innovation in breakfast meats going forward,” he says. “One of the hotter flavor trends of the moment is smoked flavors, and smoked flavors work extremely well for breakfast meats. Maple is a flavor that is also trending, and while it is not necessarily new for breakfast meats, the marriage of maple flavors with liquor flavors like bourbon in other categories could prove inspirational for breakfast meat makers. I also would not rule out more innovation in ethnic flavors like chorizo that have the potential to appeal to consumers well beyond Hispanic consumers that are already familiar with this particular flavor profile.”

As in the overall meat category, the industry also is seeing increased innovations around natural meats both in the chilled fresh meat section as well as in value added frozen, Meyers says.

“We expect this trend to continue — with particular emphasis on organic, animal welfare, and livestock not treated with antibiotics or hormones,” he says.

The desire for craft and artisan products also could help the market, Datamonitor’s Vierhile says. According to Datamonitor Consumer’s 2014 Q4 survey, 21 percent of U.S. consumers perceive the word “craft” used for a food product to mean that the product is “made by hand.”  “This explains why use of the term ‘craft’ is spreading from craft beer to a number of other categories including meat snacks and meat products in general,” he explains. Additionally, breakfast meats could win points from consumers trying to avoid gluten as well as consumers seeking a more Paleo-style diet.

“The high-protein trend is also a natural for breakfast meats and while the trend is hardly new, it does not appear to be ready to go away anytime soon,” he says.

The trend of protein for breakfast has been reflected in foodservice as well. Chicago-based Technomic Inc.’s MenuMonitor reports half of midscale restaurant operators include beef, pork, chicken or turkey on their menus in breakfast entrées and sides. Traditional casual dining follows with 42 percent, quick-service with 37 percent, upscale/contemporary casual dining with 36 percent and fast-casual with 30 percent. Restaurant patrons are seeing more chorizo, pork and fried chicken proteins at breakfast, says Jill Failla, Technomic’s editor.

“Operators are looking for differentiated ways to offer pork, as it is a favorite breakfast protein,” she says. “A lot of innovation comes from the quick-service segment, which hotly competes for breakfast.”

Examples of innovation at quick-service restaurants include Taco Bell’s nationwide launch of the Biscuit Taco in three varieties, including Chicken with Jalapeno Honey. Last year, Taco Bell unveiled a new breakfast menu, complete with its attention-grabbing centerpiece, the Waffle Taco, featuring a waffle, bacon or sausage, scrambled eggs, cheese and syrup. For breakfast, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s launched the Grilled Pork Chop Biscuit Sandwich, featuring a boneless slice of pork chop inside an in-house made biscuit with American cheese and folded egg. Earlier this year, Dunkin’ Donuts also introduced the Bacon Guacamole Flatbread Sandwich, which includes two strips of bacon, egg, a slice of reduced fat cheddar cheese and guacamole. In addition, McDonald’s is testing two new Breakfast Bowls with turkey sausage or chorizo. The Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bowl includes turkey sausage and egg whites, topped with kale, spinach, bruschetta and cheddar Jack cheese. The Chorizo Breakfast Bowl features chorizo and egg with a hash brown, shredded cheddar Jack cheese and pico de gallo.

Restaurant-goers also have varying preferences for weekday and weekend breakfasts, with handhelds, such as sandwiches, wraps and baked goods, peaking for weekday occasions when consumers need convenient options, says Deanna Jordan, a senior research analyst of consumer insights at Technomic. Weekend breakfasts more strongly call for entrées that are typically plated and associated with sit-down meals, such as egg dishes.

The consumer trends of quality, alternatives and transparency also relate to the breakfast category in foodservice. Breakfast is strongly associated with health with 63 percent of consumers feeling it is unhealthy to skip breakfast, Technomic reports. Qualitative data reiterates consumers’ call for more healthful breakfast options, Jordan says.

Relatedly, interest has held steady in alternative breakfast proteins. More than a fifth of consumers would like restaurants to offer more turkey- and chicken-based subs (38 percent and 22 percent, respectively) for breakfast proteins, Jordan says. This is strongly driven by younger consumers; roughly twice as many consumers ages 18 to 34 as those age 35 and older show interest in these substitutes.

Growing breakfast

Several key trends are having an impact on the breakfast meat category on which the industry should continue to nurture, such as on-the-go eating and a focus on protein for satiation, says Susan Viamari, IRI’s editor of Thought Leadership.

“On-the-go and satiation are also trends with staying power — this is good news for breakfast meats,” she says. “It opens the door to innovation — completely new categories and new forms.”

The increasing diversity of the U.S. population also is creating more demand for different flavors, textures and cuisines, Viamari says. In addition, Millennials’ purchase power is growing along with their need for value and unique shopping/eating behaviors. Fresh, natural and organic products also have growth potential.

“Delivering against these trends will impact innovation — more flavors, forms and packaging — as well as distribution strategies — getting the right products to the right consumer at the right time, because consumers won’t go on a treasure hunt,” Viamari says. “They have choices.”

Viamari cautions breakfast meat providers to remember that competing for share of stomach means not just competing with other meats, but also with other categories in CPG and food service.

“Take a 360-degree look at shoppers and see what your core shoppers are buying — where could your category/brand be a viable alternative for other categories/brands and vice versa,” Viamari says.

In the foodservice sector, diners are looking for increased transparency and additive-free qualities.

“This aligns with consumers’ perception of breakfast as a key part of a healthy diet, but more importantly, additive-free conveys quality,” Technomic’s Jordan says. “These attributes are evolving from a nice-to-have into a must-have. Eventually, additive-free will no longer be a differentiator; it will be a demand.”

Technomic’s Failla also expects to see more ethnic-inspired breakfast meat trends, following the proliferation of chorizo.

“Since we’re seeing more nontraditional pork protein applications, I predict that we’ll even see some pulled pork on breakfast menus in the future,” she says.

Meat and poultry companies also should note the growth of non-meat proteins offered in foodservice, such as protein-rich grains and ancient grains, and the emergence of breakfast beverages enriched with these grains, Failla says. Grains are an increasing source of protein as breakfast bowls, particularly at fast-casuals, have been featuring them, Jordan adds.

Seafood for breakfast also is appealing among younger consumers. Le Pain Quotidien, for example, offers a Smoked Salmon Breakfast, which includes a soft-boiled egg, ricotta, herbs and capers. Additionally, Bruegger’s Bagels menus include a Smoked Salmon sandwich at breakfast.

The importance of conveying quality and better-for-you attributes at an affordable price all have implications for breakfast meats at foodservice, especially at limited-service restaurants where breakfast occasions are more routine, Jordan adds.

“Proteins can also be positioned as satiating and a kind of ‘functional food,’ offering high value because of such,” she adds. “The importance of convenience has format implications, of course. Proteins within a portable offering, such as a wrap or sandwich, can be an essential part of those routine occasions.”  NP

Hey breakfast, where's the beef?

BY MIKE CRAWFORD, Chisholm Trail Grass-fed Beef

You’ve heard the saying, “Beef. It’s what’s for dinner,” but why not have it for breakfast, too? It is now sweet to be savory during the most important meal of the day. Too long have bagels, doughnuts and Danishes ruled the breakfast sphere. It’s time to wake up to the smell of beef!

With more and more Americans joining forces with the Paleo diet and clean-eating lifestyles, sugary confection consumption is decreasing. These eaters are now opting for unadulterated food that is as close as possible to its natural state.

Organic fruits and vegetables as well as ethically raised animal protein are at the top of grocery lists, while skipping the center-aisle processed foods is encouraged.

From your traditional steak and eggs to a new, versatile grass-fed beef sweet potato hash, beef can transform any breakfast item and pack it full of protein. The International Food Information Council Foundation reported 57 percent of Americans actively try to consume more protein.

Beef breakfast benefits

Some may say the egg is having its heyday, with its six grams of protein and five grams of healthy fats. Although we’re happy it is, we think the real breakfast nutritional powerhouse is grass-fed beef, raised the way nature intended. One serving is only 140 calories and contains 18 grams of lean protein. It has less fat and cholesterol than almost any other meat or poultry available. The health advantages don’t stop there. Grass-fed beef has higher levels of Omega-3 Fatty Acids compared to conventionally raised beef and it has more Vitamin B6 than 6.5 cups of raw spinach!

A convenient protein

Another benefit to grass-fed beef is that it saves well! You can brown it, then freeze it for quick, last-minute dinners. It also holds up well in the refrigerator if you plan on eating it that week. At Chisholm Trail Grass-fed Beef, we know the average household is running around with more items on the to-do list than there are hours in the day, and more often than not breakfast is forgotten in the morning rush. So, we’ve provided you with a simple grass-fed beef sweet potato hash that will provide the energy needed to complete all of the tasks. Feel free to use it at home, and spread the word to your customers and consumers as well! This recipe can also be prepared the night before and is easily reheated in the morning.  NP

Grass-fed Beef Sweet Potato Hash

Makes 2 to 3 servings
1 large sweet potato
1 lb. Chisholm Trail’s grass-fed spicy breakfast sausage

  • Wash then cube the sweet potato into small, bite-sized pieces.
  • Begin browning the breakfast sausage.
  • TIP: This shouldn’t take too long since grass-fed beef cooks 30 percent faster than regular beef!
  • Cook the breakfast sausage until it is half way done, then add the sweet potatoes and cover, letting the mixture cook for five minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, and allow the beef-potato mixture to continue cooking for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender, but not mushy.

Now is the time for beef to take its place at the breakfast table. Consumers everywhere are looking to take breakfast by the horns, are you helping them find ways to do it?


This article was contributed by Mike Crawford, partner of Chisholm Trail Grass-fed Beef — a rancher-owned and -operated cooperative specializing in raising 100-percent grass-fed longhorns on ranches in Texas. For more information, visit: