Breakfast is known as the most important meal of the day. But the pandemic changed the world and customers are dining differently. Anne Bruce looks at the latest trends
If there is one thing that has shaken everyone's wake-up over the past few years, it's the pandemic. Whereas once Monday to Friday generally meant an early morning race to work, now there are fewer people commuting every day and more working from home.
Consumers' tastes have also evolved during the pandemic, and technology and social media has moved centre stage. With a cost-of-living crisis thrown in for good measure, the foodservice sector is working out what the new normal is for breakfast out of home.
So how do you hit the spot with your grab-and-go or eat-in breakfast offer, and in a cost-effective manner?
Suppliers to the breakfast sector suggest menus should reflect wider food trends, such as health, indulgence and plant-based eating. The offer needs to be Instagram-able, to keep up with what customers see on social media or skills learned in the kitchen during the pandemic. And to service a new breakfast model, operators must ensure that availability is good throughout the morning and into the afternoon, as breakfast blurs into lunch.
‘Clockless eating', as the requirement to commute diminishes, also "means that the sale of more snack-sized breakfast items is on the rise and there has been an expansion of traditional breakfast items into other day-parts," comments Kate Sykes, marketing manager at Lantmännen Unibake UK.
Getting breakfast right circa 2022 sounds like a tall order, but actually doesn't mean reinventing the wheel. Innovation is best focused on streamlining and bringing existing favourites on trend in a cost effective manner, suppliers suggest.
Simplifying menus by creating recipes that can multi-task between dine-in and grab and go is a great start, says Joel Carr, development chef at Young's Foodservice. Scrambled eggs with avocado, smoked salmon and a sprinkling of chives is a perfect breakfast to sit down to, but works equally well in a wrap for takeaway, for example.
Eggs remain a breakfast menu staple and a versatile and protein-packed ingredient, great for the more health-conscious customer. "Chefs are continuing to embrace eggs Benedict but prepare to see evolutions of this classic creation," Macphie insights and marketing manager Kirsty Matthews suggests.
Breakfast cereal is another popular and convenient option that can be brought up-to-date, David Bone, foodservice channel manager at Weetabix recommends. "Consumers returned to cereal during lockdown because of its versatility. It can also have additional toppings and different milks, which taps into the trend for personalised breakfasts. This is a great option for caterers to allow consumers to customise their own breakfast cereal."
"Pancakes and waffles also reign supreme on breakfast menus," Matthews adds. "As well as being a firm favourite for customers, they're a great menu multi-tasker. They can transition from breakfast to brunch or afternoon treat to after-dinner dessert. Or go savoury, and add them to your menu as a lunchtime offering."
For another easy way to jazz up your breakfast menu, Lamb Weston's range of hash browns complement other breakfast meal components, whether the full English or breakfast on the go, suggests Peter Evans, marketing manager UK and Ireland.
Operators can look to crumpets for an all-day win, Gordon Lauder, managing director of frozen food distributor Central Foods believes. "Crumpets are a versatile British favourite. Bring them bang up to date by offering a selection of toppings – both sweet and savoury. Pop crumpets onto lunch and snack menus too, and they'll more than earn their keep."
The bread category offers options including free-from, wholegrain and also rye bread, which can unlock opportunities, states Scott Oakes, commercial manager for St Pierre Groupe. Consumers, particularly younger consumers, want healthier food and in many cases they're willing to pay more for it. Rye bread is the perfect solution for healthier variety on the breakfast menu, he suggests.
Flavour of the week
Weekday breakfasts have a focus on health, with cereal, toast and oat-based breakfasts as the top three choices, supplier Délifrance's May 2022 breakfast report indicates. At the weekends, however, a quarter of consumers select more indulgent breakfasts, with pastries or pancakes.
Sweet treats such as Danish pastries are particularly popular as a grab-and-go option, comments Sykes at Lantmännen Unibake UK. Muffins and smoothies and hot sandwiches, as well as pastries are also consumers' go-to on-the-go options, Délifrance's research suggests.
Indulgence and health often go hand-in-hand in eat-in at breakfast. "We are seeing the introduction of healthy dishes that blur the lines between breakfast and lunch; think Buddha bowls, hot baked eggs, superfood smoothies and overnight oats," states David Colcombe, chef ambassador for Maple from Canada UK.
Offering all-day breakfast with interesting healthy dishes that bridge the gap between breakfast and lunch also allows you to experiment with on-trend world food flavours, suggests Ian Nottage, head of food development at Sysco Speciality Group.
"Add a spiced avocado mash for a Mexican mash-up or serve with fried chicken and Cajun spice for a comforting Southern American twist," he adds.
On the veg
Plant-based eating has become a significant factor for operators to consider, particularly for younger age groups. The plant-based trend is being accelerated by an increasing interest in health and wellbeing, which has been encouraged by the pandemic, says Gordon Lauder. " We know from our own research that 46% of British consumers are reducing the amount of meat they are eating this year, both out of home and at home. We're seeing a lot of our partners use our This Isn't Bacon in breakfasts, such as loaded bacon butties (pictured top) and breakfast tortillas," comments Andy Shovel, co-founder of brand This.
Phil Thornborrow, foodservice director at Quorn Foods, says Quorn's versatility spans breakfast options from breakfast muffins to Mexican-inspired breakfast quesadillas. He says: "Quorn is ideally placed to help caterers create on-trend breakfast dishes that diners will love, but that also meet a wide range of compliance criteria to help make menu planning simpler."
Aside from menu choices, breakfast in the current economic climate is all about getting the sums to work, marketing what you have, whether on social media or via point of sale in store, and building customer loyalty, controlling wastage and keeping the operation efficient. Ease of preparation in the kitchen has to be a priority, with staff and skills shortages in evidence, and bake-off or thaw and serve products can help here.
Délifrance marketing director Stephanie Brillouet comments that controlling wastage is also key. Operators can get smart by reworking ingredients. "It's worth looking at ways to repurpose day-old baked goods, such as viennoiserie, into delicious breakfast dishes," Brillouet suggests.
One top tip to keep in mind is that if consumers are going to indulge, they need to feel it's worth it, which means that quality of the product should be front and centre, Sykes at Lantmännen Unibake UK says. Calling out the provenance of ingredients in a traditional full English hints at premiumisation, as does the use of porridge toppers such as compotes, says Ian Nottage at Sysco.
A major motivation for consumers when it comes to breakfast out of home is the ability to pair it with a drink to elevate the experience, Sykes comments. Almost 96% of consumers consider purchasing a sweet pastry with a drink, Schulstad Bakery Solutions' research – Opeepl – Thaw & Serve – February 2022 indicates. So, pairing these items together for breakfast encourages incremental sales.
Meal deals continue to prove popular at lunch, so why not extend the concept to breakfast, asks Oakes. Most meal deals work as a ‘mix and match' and breakfast presents an opportunity to combine a hot drink with a breakfast sandwich, baguette, wrap or roll.
Loyalty schemes and subscriptions help guarantee repeat visits out of home, with 44% of those who eat breakfast using one, and two-thirds of these favouring that particular food outlet, the Délifrance report notes. This remains an area of opportunity, with half of out of home breakfasters not using one yet. The times and timings of breakfast have really changed post-pandemic, but if you get your menu and marketing right, you'll be able to enjoy breakfast's new dawn, elevensies or even noon.
Central Foods www.centralfoods.co.uk
Lamb Weston www.lambweston.eu/uk
Lantmännen Unibake UK www.lantmannen-unibake.co.uk
Maple from Canada UK www.maplefromcanada.co.uk
Quorn Professionals www.quornfoodservice.co.uk
St Pierre Groupe www.stpierregroupe.com
Sysco Speciality Group www.syscospecialitygroup.co.uk
Weetabix Food Group www.weetabixfoodservice.co.uk
Youngs Foodservice www.youngsfoodservice.co.uk
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