Guests are getting more adventurous with their breakfast, choosing healthier and grab-and-go options as well as old favourites, says Anne Bruce
The traditional indulgent English breakfast might still be popular in restaurants and hotels, but consumer demands are changing. Over half the nation now leaves home without having had breakfast, and breakfast-to-go is a rapidly growing category.
And, driven by programmes such as the Department of Health's Public Health Responsibility Deal, plus advertising from healthy-eating brands, consumers are looking at ways to eat more healthily.
Howard Ball of foodservice purchasing company Beacon tells The Caterer that, with the economy picking up, his customers are enjoying an uplift in trade and have increased budget allocations for breakfast as a result.
Innovation is also blossoming, he says. "Breakfast is an interesting meal. For a hotel or a bed and breakfast, it is the last meal that the guest has, so you want it to knock their socks off. While it may be the traditional breakfast, we are seeing demand for healthy options such as probiotic yogurts and convenience options such as breakfast bars."
Caterers had already moved away from offering plated breakfasts in favour of a buffet format, and now takeaway retail options such as breakfast biscuits are increasingly seen in the foodservice channel, he says.
Customers are likely to want to get on the road early after a night in a hotel, taking with them an easy to manage, non-drippy drink and a snack, Ball explains.
This is good news for the caterer too, as it reduces overheads, such as linen and cutlery.
Catherine Hinchcliff, head of customer marketing at foodservice supplier Bidvest 3663, says it now offers a range of quick and healthy breakfast snacks alongside traditional breakfast favourites. These include fruit smoothies, high-fibre porridge oats, low-calorie pancakes and English muffins.
She says: "When it comes to breakfast, Bidvest 3663 believes the trend of functional foods and grab-and-go solutions will continue to rise as customers become increasingly time-poor."
Breakfast to go
With the rise of breakfast to go, there is a blurring of boundaries in morning meals. Until recently, wraps and flatbreads were mainly considered a lunchtime option; however, the trend for these at breakfast is gaining in popularity, says BPEX foodservice trade sector manager Tony Goodger.
"Freshly cooked dishes, such as the breakfast wrap and breakfast burrito, are great alternatives and offer a nutritious start to the day - and, more importantly, customers enjoy eating them."
He recommends offering meal deals, such as a ham and egg breakfast wrap or marmalade-glazed sausage bap, along with tea or coffee.
Meanwhile, Andrew Joret, chairman of the British Egg Industry Council, says that no-one is throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to traditional breakfast mainstays - around a third of eggs are consumed at breakfast and this shows no signs of changing.
But it's not just fried eggs on toast any more. Innovative takeaway options, such as poached egg breakfast pots served with a range of toppings, like those on sale at restaurant chain Leon, are becoming widely available.
Whether operators are looking to provide a classic breakfast dish like bacon and eggs or to cater to consumer demand for health trends, such as the Paleo diet or the 5:2 diet, eggs provide a fantastic base, Joret says.
And Neil Smith, head of food marketing for Brakes, says bacon also remains key to breakfast: every year the UK foodservice industry consumes 1.7 billion pounds in weight of bacon.
But offering a little added value is essential. Some 88% of consumers say the quality of bacon is very or fairly important to their overall enjoyment of the meal. Accordingly, Smith recommends caterers try adding smoked bacon to their range: "This flavour profile allows operators to give their customers the best offering to encourage consumption."
Even hash browns are being given a tweak, with supplier Farm Frites launching low-salt versions. Marketing manager Nic Townsend says these will strike a chord with consumers as food and drinks that are high in sugar, salt and fat are coming under fire.
He says: "Caterers are under pressure to do their bit for the Department of Health's Public Health Responsibility Deal, and they need to reflect the fact that 56% of consumers prefer to visit an eating-out establishment where there is a decent choice of healthier eating options."
Vegetarian options should also be on offer for meat-reducers, recommends Simon Cliff, general sales manager at Daloon Foodservice. "Given the growth in the vegetarian food market and out-of-home breakfast occasions, our latest additions are ideal for caterers seeking incremental sales,"he says. "These products make great meat-free alternatives to traditional cooked breakfasts."
The hot drinks menu is also in flux, according to Mike Wright, master blender at Twinings UK & Ireland. He says: "Our green tea sales were up 30% on last year. We have healthy options, ranging from herbal and fruit teas, including Summer Berries and Double Mint, through to sweeter, 'indulgence' green teas, such as Salted Caramel and Gingerbread."
Dairy-free milk supplier Alpro says its soya alternatives to milk are becoming a mainstay in the hot drinks arena. More than 30 million soya drinks are now sold through coffee shops every year. All of Alpro's alternatives to milk can also be poured over cereals or used for making porridge.
"Retail sales of plant-based products are growing by 14% and are now in excess of £148m," says Vicky Walsh, senior brand manager for Alpro UK, "so
the opportunity to further translate that success into the catering arena is really compelling. Our range of plant-based breakfast offerings is perfect for caterers looking to give health-conscious guests an alternative to dairy, and plant-based eating is a fast-growing trend that caterers need to capitalise on."
Back in the Imperial in London's Kings Road, chef Tom Hope is mixing modern and traditional. His early morning selection features coriander and chilli corn fritters with poached eggs and bacon; crushed avocado and lemon, tomato and grilled halloumi on sourdough; and egg white omelette with spring onion and herbs.
There is an array of freshly squeezed juices, with beetroot, ginger, carrot and celery, alongside wheatgrass shots. The hotel also offers the usual suspects - from
a full English to eggs Benedict.
Tosin Jack, senior industry analyst for chemicals, materials and food at Frost & Sullivan, sees this as the winning formula for breakfast: "Traditional breakfasts still have their place in the market, and many consumers still want them, so it is expected that breakfasts with a combination of all elements will have competitive advantages."
FIR and allergies
On 13 December 2014 the EU's new Food Information Regulation (FIR) 1169/2011 will come into force, where 14 potential food allergens must be labelled. As these allergens include popular breakfast ingredients, such as gluten, eggs, fish, milk, nuts and sesame seeds, breakfast operators need to be on the
ball about implementing it.
John Scott, managing director at labelling company Planglow, offers some practical advice: "You'll need to ascertain whether you're a full or a reduced labeller. If your produce is made fresh and sold on-site, or sold by staff directly employed by the same business, you are a reduced labeller. Everyone else is a full labeller."
Full labellers will have to provide detailed, on-pack information, including energy value, fat, saturates, carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. Reduced labellers don't actually have to provide information on the pack - it can be given on a ticket, blackboard or other form of notice instead.
Q&A with Andy Lowe, Thistle Hotels
Andy Lowe, Thistle's new group food and beverage director, says that weekend breakfast is always the most popular meal at Thistle's 31 full-service hotels across the country.
What are the most popular options? We tend to find that both our leisure guests and business travellers still enjoy a traditional cooked breakfast. With people's lives being ever busier, we tend to find that they have even less time to cook breakfast at home, so they enjoy it all the more when staying in one of our hotels.
What are the trends? We are seeing two main trends at breakfast time. The first is the expectation around improved quality of ingredients and great cooking technique. Our new Thistle breakfast offer includes Gloucester Old Spot sausages and American-style pancakes, for example.
The second trend we've noticed is a demand for healthy options. Our guests are enjoying Greek-style yogurts and muesli, as well as omelettes and smoked salmon. There is also a growing expectation for extras, such as nuts, dried fruits and skimmed and soya milk.
How does breakfast work at Thistle?
Our breakfasts are laid out as hot and cold buffets. This works really well, as we can set the display up with the chilled items, the hot options and a bread section. In many of our properties we have an omelette station, where we cook customer requests to order.
Our breakfast is usually offered as part of the room rate; but customers can also order Á la carte options, including things like eggs Benedict and smoked kippers. We find customers are happy when they have fantastic choice, and great ingredients and service.
How does breakfast demand change with the seasons? In warmer weather our guests consume more fruit salad, muesli, juices, smoothies and yogurt.
As the weather cools, customers really seem to value traditional dishes, such as porridge and the hot options. It's also interesting to see that, in line with many health clubs, we find guests eating more healthy items in January when weight loss post-Christmas is key, as well as in June, just before people go away on holiday. At these times people opt for whole fruit, such as bananas, oranges and apples.
'Smoothie bowls' are made with similar ingredients to smoothies, but the base has a thicker consistency.
Often, the smoothie is topped with granola and sliced fruit and eaten in a bowl with a spoon, so consumers perceive it as filling and fresh.
Juicing and shakes have been on-trend in 2014 and consumers are becoming more health-conscious, says shakes company Purition. It has developed a variety of shakes, including a Superseed Breakfast Smoothie - a wholefood meal replacement made from seeds and nuts.
Functional foods are those that deliver additional or enhanced benefits over and above their basic nutritional value. Foods containing probiotics, prebiotics, plant stanols, sterols or that are fortified with nutrients would be classed as functional.
These items are gaining popularity in the breakfast market. Examples of recent launches include special edition Kiwi flavour from Danone yogurt drink Actimel. This includes yogurt, Lactobacillus casei live cultures, fruit purée, calcium and vitamins.
And Cuckoo Foods' new Bircher muesli range includes Elderflower & Cranberry, Choco Sour Cherry and Mango & Coconut. Each serving contains up to 29% of daily beta-glucan, recommended to help lower cholesterol as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Alpro 08000 188180
Beacon 01904 695588
Bidvest 3663 0370 3663 100
BPEX 0247 669 2051
British Egg Industry Council 020 7608 3760
Daloon 01636 701000
Danone Actimel 0808 144 9451
Farm Frites 01452 415845
HRS 020 8846 0640
Purition 0845 222 0174
Thistle 020 7138 0000
Twinings Tea 01264 313444