Five Ways to Boost Breakfast Sales

What consumers look for on morning menus

breakfast menu board

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CHICAGO -- With breakfast expected to grow to at least $35 billion by 2018, according to Mintel, convenience retailers can expect competition during the morning day-part to only grow fiercer. Retailers who maximize their foodservice offerings to meet the needs of consumers looking for portability and value, convenience and healthier options will find they can better compete with quick-service and even fast-casual chains and grab a larger share of those breakfast food dollars, morning, noon or night.

Here’s a look at five key things consumers look for on breakfast menus.

Convenience and portability

Breakfast sandwiches still reign among busy breakfast eaters with convenience and value top of mind. In fact, 42% of breakfast menus throughout the country offer a breakfast sandwich, according to Food Genius, a Chicago-based food and menu research firm.

But retailers should think about grab-and-go options beyond just the standard egg-and-cheese. “Paninis, wraps and burritos have had a great run in just the last 18 months,” said Justin Massa, Food Genius’ co-founder and CEO. Additionally, a growing number of quick-service-restaurant chains are experimenting with other types of carriers, such as waffles, flatbreads or more gourmet pretzel buns, and these types of items can be a valuable offering in a c-store’s foodservice business as well.

Protein, protein and more protein

Above all else, “protein is what comes up again and again,” said Massa, who notes that consumers seem to want heartier breakfast items to last them through the morning—or even as a lunchtime replacement.

Thus, the payoff potential of offering items that are protein-dense but healthy, such as breakfast sandwiches incorporating egg whites, turkey and low-fat cheese, is big for retailers.

According to Mary Chapman, senior director of product innovation for Chicago-based research firm Technomic, millennials in particular want a variety of healthy options. “Younger consumers are interested in alternative breakfast proteins, such as turkey- and chicken-based proteins, as well as plant-based, vegetarian options like veggie burgers,” she said.

What’s more, day-part doesn’t matter in terms of when these protein-packed foods are eaten. According to Chapman, 48% of consumers say they enjoy breakfast foods at nontraditional times. C-stores that offer their breakfast items longer throughout the day and even night could maximize both morning day-part and overall sales.

Healthy cold choices

When it comes to cold breakfast foods, 80% of consumers reach for fresh fruit, protein bars, bagels and a variety of yogurt-based products, such as Greek yogurt and parfaits, both in the early and late morning hours as snacks, according to a breakfast research study conducted by Kellogg’s. Women aged 45 to 74, otherwise known as “regiment breakfast eaters,” tend to seek these fresh, wholesome and healthier options over others, the study found.

Consumers also increasingly look for hearty beverages such as smoothies, grab-and-go protein shakes and liquid breakfast drinks. Retailers who offer these types of beverages can menu them as standalone morning meals or as part of a breakfast combo.

Global offerings

Thirty percent of consumers are open to trying ethnic foods in the morning, according to Technomic. “We’ve seen Latin American flavors in particular growing meaningfully at breakfast,” said Massa.

By offering ethnic-inspired dishes, such as breakfast burritos, or by providing a variety of condiments and other customizable options, retailers can appeal to consumers seeking flavor boosts during breakfast.

Value

Aside from convenience, breakfast items still need to be inexpensive or retailers risk losing their business to home-based meals, according to Chapman.

Breakfast combos—namely, those that pair foods with a beverage—can help build sales. But combo meals can’t just be about price. “Freshness and quality with the coffee or beverage has to be there," Chapman said. As such, retailers who invest in gourmet hot-beverage programs might find a boost in sales.