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Genesis of Breakfast Trends in Foodservice

The Food Channel’s editor in chief recently announced her picks for the Top Ten Breakfast Trends in 2011 in a nod to the growing emphasis on, and popularity of, breakfast. As is true with a multitude of consumer food and flavor trends, the majority have their genesis in foodservice, as breakfast spills over into other dayparts and continues to drive interest and generate profits. The net/net for operators is that breakfast is hotter than ever. It’s the daypart demonstrating some of the greatest innovation and competition as of late.

Here is a topline review of the Top Breakfast Trends:

1.      Oatmeal in Overdrive–a mainstay for years in the family dining segment, oatmeal, in many flavorful combinations, is seemingly the “it” food in quick serve and fast casual restaurants these days. Thanks to consumers driving demand for healthier food-on-the-go, oatmeal is enjoying a renaissance.

2.      Chocolate for Breakfast–simply music to my ears! I’ve enjoyed chocolate for breakfast more times than I’d care to admit, and apparently I’m not the only one. This trend is not only showing up in products featured at gourmet food shows, but on menus nationwide as well in a variety of forms: chocolate truffles, smoothies, waffles (batter and topping) – and, going back to trend #1, yes, even chocolate oatmeal.

3.      Fast Foods Battle Over Breakfast–pretty much speaks for itself. As my favorite daypart continues to gain in popularity, look for the big QSR players to ramp up the offerings (and the times of availability).

4.      Haute Coffee Comes Home–not ones to do without our coffee, Americans are looking for ways to combat the ever-climbing coffee-shop prices, not to mention the choice choke they face looking at a coffee-house menu board. One solution is grinding your coffee beans at home. It’s not the coffee of 10 years ago, but rather gourmet varieties (some from their favorite coffee shops’ retail brands) and a litany of flavors.

5.      Ethnic Invasion–The Food Channel has been talking convenience, health and taste as major trend influencers since the mid-90s. We witnessed the emergence of American regional cuisine, Asian, regional Italian, Hispanic/Latin and Mediterranean. Watch now as this celebration of ethnic flavor shifts to breakfast–the greatest “comfort” meal.

6.      Beverage Choice Choke–take a walk down the beverage aisle of your grocery store and this becomes immediately apparent. But rather than totally overwhelming the consumer, the category continues to fragment with more options: flavors, neutriceutical ingredients and seasonal flavors. In foodservice, we see beverage choice choke in much the same way. Take a walk down your local convenience store beverage aisle, not to mention the gourmet coffee bar. Better yet, hit the soda fountain where you can customize your beverage with literally hundreds of different flavor combinations. While consumers may love experimenting with beverages in the supermarket, when it comes to foodservice, they often want you to help them navigate the terrain. Educate servers and support staff so they can confidently make recommendations to your customers when asked.

7.      Hot Pizza in the A.M.–I thought everyone did this already! A pizza lover myself, I couldn’t be happier to see it showing on in the a.m.–but this isn’t your typical pepperoni. Fruit toppings, bacon and, yes, even eggs are finding their ways to a breakfast pizza near you. A huge number of foodservice operators already menu pizza, so why not give it a whirl for breakfast or for that special early morning event you’re catering?

8.      Breakfast Ingredients All Day Long–as someone who thought eating breakfast for dinner as a kid was a real treat, I totally understand extending the flavors of breakfast into other dayparts. Where “haven’t” you seen bacon lately? It’s even in vodka. And eggs, in many forms, are topping sandwiches, salads, pastas and more–and that’s not new in foodservice, but is growing in popularity for home cooks.

9.      The Breakfast Two-Step–consumers are grazing more, eating smaller meals, in more frequent intervals, and this phased approach starts with breakfast. Whether it’s coffee and bagels, followed two hours later by oatmeal and toast or fruit, you can capitalize on this trend by offering different “tiers” of breakfast items from which patrons can choose and then sequence throughout the morning.

10.    Eggs Crack the Top Ten–my grandmother has been vindicated. She believed in the benefits of fresh eggs and served them daily–something that’s now considered OK by many health experts. I ascribe to the Julia Child philosophy—enjoy anything you want, in moderation. Bon appétit!

Read the complete Top Ten Breakfast Trends and the Top Ten Foods to Watch in 2011 at www.foodchannel.com.