The breakfast sector is becoming an attractive area of opportunity for meat and poultry merchandisers.

Unlike lunch and dinner, many consumers frequently skip breakfast or give it scant consideration. But as more shoppers embrace healthier lifestyles, they are revisiting their morning eating habits and giving greater attention to proteins.

The Mintel Group, a London-based global market research firm, found 48 percent of consumers in a 2016 online survey reported they bought meat from retail locations to eat specifically for breakfast within the previous three months, and 25 percent did so at foodservice outlets.

In addition, 39 percent of respondents indicated that high protein was important to them when purchasing breakfast foods, 33 percent cited no artificial ingredients, 28 percent favored items with no additives and preservatives and 21 percent preferred organic selections. This final finding spotlights the potentially strong payback from merchandising natural and organic meats and poultry.

Forty-two percent of consumers also noted they are eating healthier breakfasts, while 31 and 29 percent, respectively, stated they are paying closer attention to product nutrient facts and ingredients. The approximately 2,000 survey respondents were adults who buy breakfast foods at retail stores.

“Consumers value the importance of breakfast, and many report they are not only eating breakfast more often, but eating healthier breakfasts,” Mintel states in its July 2016 What’s for Breakfast US report. “Despite substantial competition from foodservice, retail brands have the opportunity to promote products for a variety of occasions and emphasize the convenience, affordability and nutritional value of their foods, knowing how important those attributes are to consumers.”

 

Life in the fast lane

Breakfast selections that meet shoppers’ growing interest in speed and convenience also are increasingly popular. Twenty-one percent of Mintel survey respondents noted that, compared with the previous year, they are eating more breakfast foods that do not require preparation.

“There is an increase of grab and go and portable breakfast options,” says Maia Chang, senior research analyst, consumer insights, for Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based food industry research and consulting firm. “Consumers are very busy and looking for foods they can eat off-premise, such as at work or school, or on the go. They also see breakfast as being important for a healthy lifestyle,” Chang says.

Twenty-five percent of consumers indicated lack of time causes them to skip breakfast during the week, according to a 2015 nationally representative Technomic survey of 2,249 shoppers, while 20 percent stated that they eat a snack instead.

“Consumers want a breakfast that is filling, energizing and holds them over until lunch,” Technomic notes in its 2015 Breakfast Consumer Trend Report. “As such, high-protein items can help drive traffic by meeting demands for satiety.”

An increasingly active base of shoppers, meanwhile, already embraces breakfast meat selections.

Dollar sales for fresh breakfast sausage patties were up 4.2 percent for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 30, 2017, reports the Nielsen Co., a New York-based market research firm. Revenues for other sausage varieties, including turkey, grew 0.9 percent, while pork bacon, a breakfast staple, had a 5.3 percent increase.

Sixty-one percent of respondents in a 2017 Nielsen consumer survey ranked protein content above fiber (57 percent) and whole grain (57 percent) in importance when weighing health attributes of food purchases.

“Consumers are increasingly shopping with three things in mind: convenience, value and health,” says Jordan Rost, Nielsen vice president, consumer insights. “For breakfast manufacturers, it’s important to ensure product labeling and packaging address these areas, from highlighting ingredients prominently to packaging in a convenient way where consumers can eat on the go.”

Mintel concurs, noting that merchandisers should make it easy for consumers to understand and find product nutrient and ingredient information, “all while nudging them toward healthier options.”

Breakfast also is a “big innovation opportunity” for suppliers that offer hearty selections that make consumers feel at home outside the home, Rost says.

 

Keep it simple

“The pace of our lives is turning breakfast into a grab-and-go occasion,” says Diana Sheehan, director of retail insights for Kantar Retail, a Boston-based research and consulting firm. “But because breakfast also is one of the easiest meals for consumers to skip, retailers and manufacturers need to visually remind shoppers how easy it is to prepare the foods themselves.”

Effective merchandising vehicles can include in-store signage with such declarations as “breakfast in three minutes,” she says, as well as messaging that notifies shoppers of cost savings as well as health benefits from eating breakfast at home every morning.

The retail breakfast meat category will become even more attractive as consumers realize they spend significantly more money for breakfast meals away from home, Sheehan says.

“That natural progression and awareness is going to encourage and force retailers to embrace the sector,” she says.

Shoppers also will likely increase their purchases of breakfast meats as retailers make it simpler to create and access meals through the co-merchandising of common food combinations, such as meat and poultry with eggs, Sheehan says.

“Marketing meats in the packaged meats and deli sections of supermarkets and eggs in the dairy section complicates the trip for shoppers,” she states “Retailers can use displays to bring everything together. They are starting to embrace the concept of meal kit solutions for dinner, so why not for breakfast?” she says.

More meat and poultry suppliers already are accentuating convenience by developing simple-to-prepare selections, such as microwavable and precooked bacon and sausage products, Sheehan says.

The launches of quicker meal solutions is leading to greater activity in the frozen breakfast entrée category, in which dollar sales were up 19.4 percent for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 30, 2017, Nielsen reports. Revenues for shelf-stable convenient breakfast items grew 12.8 percent during that period.

“Retailers and suppliers are tailoring items that meet shoppers’ need for speed,” Sheehan says. “Yet retailers are often not promoting the products as much as they should within the store. That is the next big step.”

It also is critical for retailers and product manufacturers to have a strong ongoing focus on the development and merchandising of high-protein, low-carbohydrate selections in order to sustain and increase activity from the large base of health-conscious shoppers, she says.

“It is a missed opportunity for both retailers and suppliers not to capitalize on that,” Sheehan says. “Many retailers are just starting to think closely about the breakfast category and are not fully embracing it. There is a lot of room for it to evolve.”  NP