The Breakfast Occasion is Evolving.

23rd October 2018


At Stir, we are on a mission to help our clients fully understand the changing consumer attitudes to mealtimes, so they can more effectively plan and execute comms plans. For the last month, we have been carrying out a piece of work looking at the changing face of breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as the key trends driving those changes.

You can read the full report here, but in this we’ll share an extract concentrating specifically on the trends in consumer attitudes towards breakfast, as well as strategies for changing brand perception to appeal to them.


1. The breakfast occasion is evolving.

There is a generational shift in breakfast eating habits. Whilst the older generations are more likely to eat breakfast at home each day and tend to have a lower repertoire of foods typically eaten, more fragmented routines appear to be taking root amongst the younger generation. They are more likely to eat breakfast out of home, many doing so while on the go, and to eat a wider range of foods for breakfast.

The global ‘on-the-go breakfast’ market is forecast to grow by 46% by 2026, driven by a younger audience who state breakfast is less important than other meals (unless it’s the weekend: for three quarters of under 30s, brunch is their favourite meal). The challenge for brands is that consumers don’t always have it at home. And that means people expect new formats. Breakfast bars, drinks and other cereal alternatives are increasingly popular – Weetabix said drinks contributed 10% to its overall 2017 revenues.

Despite a tendency to eat breakfast on the go, 25 to 34-year-olds still want a lot from their breakfasts. 72% agree on the importance of getting lots of fibre at breakfast, while more than half say it’s important to eat protein (56%) and carbs (52%). This suggests that despite the need for speed and convenience, brands shouldn’t sacrifice messaging around overall health benefits. Finding a way to balance the two will help appeal to both the practical and health-conscious sides of the consumer.


Evolving Brand Perception: Becoming an ‘on-the-go’ option.

With brands like Belvita and Weetabix owning and adapting to the ‘on-the-go’ category, the more traditional ‘sit-down’ food brands wishing to tap into this market should look at placing themselves where consumers are likely to be doing this.

Consider concentrating your on-the-go products in shops at train stations and airports, or partnering with commuter news outlets such as the Metro or Evening Standard. Driving brand association with being in a rush or on the move will help to drive consideration amongst busy consumers – something Weetabix really capitalised on when launching their breakfast drinks, handing them out for free at tube stations so that customers could learn about and sample the new product.

Partnering with influencers to drive further brand awareness is also an important part of today’s PR and comms strategies. Studies show that under 35s are particularly likely to skip breakfast, particularly women and girls, so consider partnering with various young influencers to promote the importance of a healthy start to the day, even if this doesn’t involve the traditional sit-down meal at home. Similarly, brands could centre their communications messaging around the speed of preparation, working with influencers or recipe websites to promote this.


2. Not all needs are created equal.

Breakfast habits are being transformed by busy lifestyles, but brands must be aware of consumers’ differing need states. For breakfast, this can be easily defined by midweek versus weekend breakfast occasions when consumer requirements can be polar opposites.

Midweek breakfast is rushed, needs to be hyper-convenient, available and easy to eat on the go or at least very quickly; it’s a functional fuelling. At the weekend, consumers’ breakfast needs are more emotional, especially for families and young professionals, for whom it’s become more of a connection moment with loved ones at the end of a hectic week. This can be explained by the brunch boom – by the end of 2018 there will be a 6% rise in people eating breakfast out of home compared to a year ago.


Evolving Brand Perception: Appealing to the brunch generation

There are a number of ways that brands could take advantage of this trend, finding ways to establish themselves as the ‘food of choice’ for these relaxing meals spent with friends on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Take inspiration from the rise of ‘avo on toast’ – the stereotypical brunch for a high proportion of Londoners and increasingly for regional customers. Only a few years ago, few people would have thought of avocados as a particularly vital ingredient – now they’re the staple of the health-conscious consumer diet. So, how can brands emulate this?

The answer could be through centring any comms messaging around the luxury of a leisurely brunch or breakfast to drive product association. They could also consider partnering with a restaurant chain to add a voice of authority. Capitalising on the resurgence of eggs’ popularity, speciality egg producer Clarence Court announced this year that in celebration of their 90th anniversary, they had joined forces with chef and restauranteur, Mark Hill, who would act as brand ambassador. Giving your brand credibility and support from outside partners helps to place a product front of mind when consumers think about what they’ll buy when replicating their own brunch at home.

Similarly, brands such as cereal, yoghurt and granola, which might not struggle to engage a young professional audience midweek, should consider how to capture younger audiences’ attention at the weekend, when they’re not on the go and wanting to spend more time enjoying the occasion and even indulge a little. Think about how the classic porridge has been elevated in recent years through health bloggers’ recipes and brunch restaurant Instagram feeds. Brands like Quaker Oats have demonstrated how the more traditional breakfast foods can innovate with inspiration-led experiences, like their 2016 pop up shop, helping consumers to view their products as more than just a quick and convenient start to the day.


3. Have we fallen out of love with cereal?

Despite an increased number of breakfast choices available in and out of the home, cereal remains the most popular choice at home. But since 2006, the amount of breakfast cereal consumed in the
UK has undergone year-on-year decline; dropping 3.5% between 2015 and 2017. Market leader Kellogg reported a 4% drop in 2017.

But with 240 cereal products predicted to have launched in 2018, it can’t be all bad. The market is still there, it’s just a case of identifying what people want.


Evolving Brand Perception: Elevating your cereal brand

As new brands such as Rude Health and Moma enter the market, cereals are still a highly relevant breakfast option. They just need to answer consumers’ desire for healthy, tasty options, too.

Brands such as Special K have successfully positioned themselves in this way over the years, evolving their marketing strategy away from traditional dieting messaging, to focusing on overall wellness and empowerment – they also ensure to showcase specific benefits of their ingredients such as Vitamin D and folic acid. Creating a PR strategy that educates and informs will help to dispel some of the myths and distrust around cereals being completely unhealthy. Parents are also still likely to choose a cereal in their weekly shop for cost and convenience, so highlighting nutritional benefits will help to reassure them.

One advantage cereal has over other food groups, is its nostalgic nature. Few foodstuffs are more comforting or convenient than your favourite childhood cereal when you need a quick meal, snack or pick me up. Kellogg’s Corn Flakes has tapped into this insight with its recent TV campaign debating the best time of day to enjoy a bowl, driving frequency outside of traditional breakfast-time.


4. Health & wellbeing is key in decision making.

65% of Brits declare they’ve made healthier breakfast choices recently, with 26% claiming to have changed to hot or cooked breakfasts. This could explain why the average time taken to prep breakfast is increasing, now averaging 7.4 minutes (up from 7.1 minutes last year).

Health messages can boost appeal among older age groups, not just younger consumers, as sugar and calories are in the spotlight, in particular for breakfast cereal content. Brands are adapting to this increased consumer demand; cereals are making progress towards sugar reduction target, protein continues to drive NPD and a holistic approach is being taken to health messages, as opposed to focusing on losing weight.

Appetites are expanding beyond tried and trusted cereal, too. Less traditional food including vegetables, fish and meat is being consumed in greater volumes – there are no rules anymore when it comes to what you eat and when, with many health and lifestyle chefs actually advocating for breaking down these restrictions.


Evolving Brand Perception: Moving into other meal categories

It’s not just the traditionally midday and evening meal foods being eaten at breakfast time; there’s a huge opportunity to market in the opposite direction as well.

Yoghurts, porridge oats, spreads and bakery items could look to increase sales by positioning themselves as options at different mealtimes. Look to provide inspiration (which we’ll come onto further in the next section) around how to integrate your food brand in new recipes. Cadbury’s Creme Egg did this well when partnering with Deliveroo to create the ‘Crème Egg Toastie’, offering a fun recipe which customers went crazy for.

When building your strategy, start by looking at ways your brand could be expanded with alternative recipes and moments. These can then be promoted across relevant channels such as recipe sites, cookery blogs, influencer channels, and even within supermarkets.


5. Inspired choices.

Social media offers breakfast inspiration to the young, with 34% of all 18 to 34-year- olds stating Instagram was their main source of inspiration. In 2017 alone, #breakfast was snapped on Instagram almost 54 million times.

One in five Brits has shared a food photo online or with friends in the past month, so brands’ social channels are key to demonstrating consumer relevance through recipe ideas, health and, of course, taste credentials.


Evolving Brand Perception: Becoming a brand that inspires

With consumers looking more than ever for inspiration (and validation) through social media channels such as Instagram and Pinterest, partnering with digital influencers is key to building advocacy and social reach. There are two key ways of doing this in a way that feels authentic and interesting.

The first is through long term creative partnerships and ambassador roles, consistently getting your brand in front of an engaged audience of influencer followers. An example of who’s doing this well is HelloFresh – they’ve collaborated with a number of influential YouTubers and Instagrammers, creating ‘What I eat in a day’ videos, vlogs and posts that highlight their convenience and importantly, their taste and quality. They key here though is not to overdo it – too much influencer activity can quickly become inauthentic and result in backlash – and also to ensure your partners are the right fit for your brand. Do their audience want to hear about food and cooking, and how do you make it feel interesting and engaging, rather than just another ‘ad’?

A second option is through live experiences; coming up with a unique way of amplifying your product or brand, and having this showcased through external social channels. An example of this is our work with Nespresso while launching the new Creatista Coffee Machine. Tapping into the emerging social trend of ‘Latte Art’, we gave media, consumers and influencers the chance to become their own barista at a unique pop up experience. The event helped to achieve coverage and social reach of over 4m, and really helped to position the new Creatista as its own unique product.



While breakfast has changed so much during the last 10 years, the opportunity for grocery retail breakfast occasions are still massive. Brands must constantly evolve to adapt to the trends, identify new need states and put their product into new cultural norms.

Fuelled by changes in the way we work and more hectic lifestyles, convenience is key – but not at the cost of experience, values or value. It’s an increasingly competitive market for brands, and continuously adapting your comms and messaging to appeal to what customers need is essential for staying relevant in an increasingly complex consumer and trading environment.


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