Breakfast times are evolving.

29th July 2018

Written by Jo Vyvyan-Robinson, MD.

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, and the key trends driving those changes. The full report is out in August, but here we share an extract from the report on the key trends in breakfast right now.

The breakfast occasion is evolving

There is a generational shift in breakfast eating habits. The older generations are more likely to eat breakfast at home every day and also have a lower repertoire of foods typically eaten. In contrast, more fragmented routines appear to be taking root among the younger generations. 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, 25-34 year olds still want a lot from their breakfasts; 72% agree that it’s important to get lots of fibre at breakfast, and more than half say it’s important to get a lot of protein and carbs (56% and 52% respectively).

Not all needs are created equal

Breakfast habits are being transformed by busy lifestyles, but brands need to be aware of different need states of consumers. For breakfast, this can be easily defined by mid-week versus weekend breakfast occasion, where consumers’ requirements can be polar opposites. Mid-week 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. Whilst at the weekend, consumers’ needs from breakfast are more emotional, especially for families and young professionals when it’s become more of a connection moment with family and friends at the end of a hectic week. And 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 versus a year ago).

For brands such as cereal, which might struggle to engage a young professional audience mid-week, they should look to how they can capture younger audiences’ attention at the weekend, when not on the go and want to spend longer enjoying the occasion, and even indulge a little. The rise in the brunch occasion presents both competition (out of home), but also opportunity for brands if they are able to help consumers recreate the experience at home.

The majority of Brits, however quickly (average time spent is eight minutes), do eat breakfast at home every day of the week, and all age groups prefer to prep breakfasts at home and either eat it at home or at work.

Health & wellbeing is key in decision making

65 per cent of Brits declared they’ve made healthier breakfast choices recently, and 26 per cent claimed to have changed to hot or cooked breakfast. 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 the older as well as younger generations, as sugar and calories are in the spotlight, especially around breakfast cereals. Brands are adapting to this increased consumer demand; cereals are making progress towards sugar reduction targets, protein continues to drive NPD, and brands take a holistic approach to health messages – for example. Special K transitioned its brand from weight loss to wellbeing and empowerment.

Have we fallen out of love with cereal?

Despite an increased number of breakfast choices available, 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’s reported a 4% drop in 2017.

But with 240 cereal products predicted to launch in 2018, it can’t be all bad. The market is still there, it’s just a case of identifying what people want. New brands such as Rude Health and Moma entering the market show that cereals are still a very relevant breakfast option – they just need to answer consumers’ desire for healthy, tasty options too.

Inspired choices

Social media offers breakfast inspiration to the young. 34% of all 18-34 year olds stated Instagram was their main source of inspiration. In 2017, #breakfast was snapped on Instagram almost 54 million times. One in five Brits has shared a food photo online or with our friends in the past month, so brand social channels are key in demonstrating consumer relevance through recipe ideas, health and of course taste credentials.


Convenience is driving the change in the breakfast occasion, and consumers are being very specific about what they want and that they are not prepared to compromise on taste and nutrition. While the breakfast occasion has changed so much over the last 10 years, the opportunity for grocery retail breakfast occasions are still massive. Brands need to constantly evolve to adapt to the trends, really understand their target audience and what they are interested in, define a fad from a trend to really embed in culture, and play a meaningful role in the consumers’ lives.



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