With Instagram causing a proliferation of avocado toast and smoothie bowls, skipping breakfast is no longer in vogue. Angela Frewin explains how caterers can harness the current trends
The ‘rise and shine' of the all-day breakfast and bottomless brunch underlines the ongoing buoyancy of the breakfast market. Worth an estimated £11.6b by Kantar WordPanel and expected to grow by 5% this year, it's a competitive sector that is targeted by everybody, from stores and pubs to petrol forecourts.
In December, MCA reported a 2.8% rise in people eating breakfast out of home against a 2.9% decline in lunch. It's a trend reflected on Instagram, as Bridor sales director Erwan Inizan points out: "With 82.3 million shared posts, it's second only to #dinner with 89 million posts and well ahead of #lunch, which languishes behind with 72.4 million." In fact, Catherine McBeth, category marketing manager at ingredients supplier Macphie, reckons: "Avocado on toast, overnight oats and smoothie bowls all owe their popularity to social media."
The first meal of the day is adaptable to a variety of formats, from a grab-and-go snack to a late, leisurely brunch with friends or business colleagues. Research by French bakery specialist Délifrance found that 40% of consumers regard breakfast/brunch as a social occasion, while 48% are driven by convenience. Highlighting the generation gap, IGD reported that 35% of food-to-go purchases last year were breakfast-based, with 40% of carried-out breakfasts bought by 16- to 34-year-olds.
Lighter life The wellness drive has revived interest in lighter options, such as porridge, fruit and omelettes, along with on-the-go protein-loaded pots of eggs, spinach and avocado, notes Chris Beckley, managing director at KFF.
"Demand for vibrant, contemporary morning dishes, like smashed avo on toast, skinny veggie frittatas and quinoa porridge, is growing fast," adds Olivia Shuttleworth, Whirl brand manager at AAK Foodservice.
Levet sees opportunities for breakfast quiches, while Rhian Hawkings, marketing controller at Creed Foodservice, advocates on-trend Buddha bowls or salads for breakfast - all dishes that are easily tweaked for differing tastes and dietary needs.
Adding interest with a healthy option can be as simple as offering an intriguing selection of breads or a choice of toppings on porridge - try edible flowers and in-season fruit for an Instagram-worthy dish, suggests Steve Lyons, sales director at Thomas Ridley Foodservice.
"Consumers are increasingly choosing healthier breads and rolls that are rich in rye, seeds and ancient grains," confirms Inizan. Stéphanie Brillouet, Northern Europe marketing director at Délifrance, anticipates huge demand for wellness-focused loaves such as its new breads with cranberry and beetroot, plus pumpkin seed and quinoa toppings.
Bread and pastries
Despite a growing interest in healthy alternatives, regular bread-based dishes and sandwiches are key choices for 47% of consumers polled by Délifrance, and pastries and muffins remain popular. The English muffin - the basis of eggs Benedict and Florentine - was 2018's star bread product, according to foodservice baker Kara.
Continental pastries are also muscling in on the hot breakfast action. Fabien Levet, commercial manager at pastry case specialist Pidy, suggests substituting bread rolls or bagels with its buttery Paris Brest choux buns filled with scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, avocado, halloumi, spinach or grilled tomatoes. Similarly, Jon Turonnet, foodservice sales manager at Brioche Pasquier, finds chefs increasingly serving croissants with eggs and salmon or bacon and avocado.
"Hot sandwiches, paninis and the breakfast burrito are all good options for the younger market and encourage sitting in," adds Macphie's McBeth.
The foothold gained by Mexican-style breakfast burritos, as well as other popular dishes such as huevos rancheros, signal the growing appetite for global flavours, says Brillouet.
"Popular trending cuisines such as Turkish, Middle Eastern and Moroccan are introducing a wider variety of spices to the breakfast occasion - scrambled with veggies and aromatic za'atar or shakshuka North African eggs," agrees Craig Brayshaw, commercial director at dairy specialist Eurilait.
Bidfood's Modern India range of dishes, such as eggs kejriwal (eggs on toast with spices and cheese) and bacon naan (filled with eggs, bacon, Holy Cow! Bombay ketchup and fresh tomato), has proved "incredibly popular", according to customer marketing manager Gemma Benford.
For an Ibérian twist, David Menendez, joint managing director at Spanish food wholesaler Mevalco, suggests tostada (toast) topped with olive oil, tomato and Serrano ham, pintxo de tortilla (Spanish omelette) served with bread, or Morcilla de Burgos (rice-filled black puddings) served with fried eggs or piquillo peppers. Sweeter options include creamy, nutty Massimo Rey Silo cheese drizzled with chestnut honey, or chocolate-dipped, deep-fried churros.
UK to US Délifrance found that 33% of consumers prefer a cooked meal to start the day and Bidfood's research confirms the full English as the UK's most popular breakfast with a 26.5% menu penetration. Alongside perennial crowdpleasers such as eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms and baked beans, caterers can ring the changes with items such as salt beef or black pudding hash browns, says Laurence Tottingham, development chef at Oliver Kay Produce - or vegan sausages and the Real Lancashire Black Pudding Co's V-Pud. Lyons also suggests scrambled tofu, which Bidfood reports grew by 54.5% in 2018.
Chicken is also gatecrashing brunch menus, notes Creative Foods marketing director Nigel Parkes: "It's not unusual to find a buttermilk crispy-coated chicken fillet being served with Belgian waffles, grilled back bacon and maple-flavour syrup."
US diner-style pancake stacks remain popular across all age groups and day parts, reports Gordon Lauder, managing director at Central Foods, which recently launched a vegan version. They are easily customisable to all tastes, says Lauder, suiting sweet, savoury or 'swavoury' toppings from fruit, honey and yogurt, to scrambled eggs and salmon, or bacon and maple syrup.
Equally personalisable are sharing, platter-style breakfasts that tap into the social brunch trend and, says Eurilait's Brayshaw, allow caterers to trial new products and dishes.
It's worth investing in the right breakfast offer, concludes Brillouet at Délifrance: "We found that almost half of consumers typically spend £6-£10 on a sit-down brunch, with some (24%) willing to spend as much as £11-£20 on a brunch experience. What's more, 24- to 35-year-olds are most likely to breakfast out of the home multiple times a week."
Healthy workplace: Olive Catering Services
The restored status of eggs as a healthy, versatile ingredient has inspired workplace caterer Olive Catering Services to develop scrambled egg bars where breakfasts are cooked to order, while food-to-go customers can grab handheld breakfast wraps of thin omelettes filled with bacon and sausage or spicy tomato, black bean and avocado.
Olive also offers Swiss bircher muesli, traditionally made from overnight-soaked grains and seeds, grated apple and optional fruits, nuts and yogurt. Director of food Jacqui Mee says it's a refreshing, more digestible alternative to porridge.
The full English breakfast remains popular, especially as a Friday treat, says Mee, while healthy options include fruit, granola and yogurt pots, shooter-style fruit juices, vegetable smoothies, and gluten-free granolas and breads.
All-day breakfast: Polo Bar, London
All-day breakfast is the norm at the 24-hour, café-style Polo Bar opposite London's Liverpool Street Station, where the full English breakfast is a popular treat - especially at weekends - for breakfast, brunch (or even brinner, observes owner Phil Inzani).
Vegans can chow down on English breakfast of spinach, hash brown, roasted mushrooms, beans, sweet potato chips, grilled tomato, avocado and toast, or a vegan Benedict of sweet potato, guacamole, hummus and salsa rossa relish.
Polo Bar's 24-hour alcohol licence has left its mark on the menu with its Bubbly Royal pancake (with Prosecco coulis and a glass of Prosecco) and cookies and amaretto pancakes. The menu - which includes pancake stacks, organic porridge and Greek yogurt, homemade granola and rarebits - majors on locally sourced and sometimes unique ingredients, such as bacon dry cured to the café's bespoke recipe.
Bakery bites: Arytza, Bridor and Dawn Food
Arytza takes inspiration from upmarket pÁ¢tisseries for its striking, two-tone croissants in fruit-filled raspberry or chocolate-hazelnut options. Its new Denmark-made Danish pastries in lemon, Canadian blueberry, and mango and passion fruit options reflect the sweet bakery trend for provenance and intense fruit flavours.
Bridor's B'Break hand-held rolls contain sweet and savoury add-ins, such as cocoa and chocolate chip, olive and rosemary, and chorizo, while its 30g mini Confettis enclose praline chocolate, strawberry almond and lemon cheesecake-style fillings in a crispy, flaky pastry.
Dawn Foods mingles health and indulgence with its new Williams pear and chocolate muffin, and banana, vanilla and chocolate cookie puck. The new breakfast muffin includes apricot pieces and jam, cranberries and pumpkin seeds.
AAK Foodservice www.aakfoodservice.co.uk
Arytza Food Solutions www.aryztafoodsolutions.co.uk
Brioche Pasquier www.briochepasquier.co.uk/foodservice
Central Foods www.centralfoods.co.uk
Creative Foods www.creativefoodseurope.eu
Creed Foodservice www.creedfoodservice.co.uk
Dawn Foods www.dawnfoods.com
Oliver Kay Produce www.oliverkayproduce.co.uk
Thomas Ridley Foodservice www.thomasridley.co.uk
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