While Generations Differ, Health Is A Main Driver Of Breakfast Choices

 Chart above from IRI

Breakfast is still a popular at-home eating occasion—but it’s different things to different generations.

This installment of CPG FYI is based on an IRI survey last fall of primary U.S. grocery shoppers about their breakfast choices.

Interspersed with the data points are observations from IRI’s Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader, client insights.

Some topline takeaways:

  • While 95% of consumers eat foods in the morning, 52% most often have a small breakfast or a morning snack.
  • Taste, convenience and nutrition are main factors influencing consumers' choice of breakfast foods.
  • Old habits die hard: 78% of consumers said they prefer to stick with morning food and beverages they’ve had before.

In both unit and dollar volume, frozen food (think waffles) and weight control/liquid powders were the biggest winners in the week ended Dec. 26 of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020 in retail outlets tracked by IRI.

At the same time, refrigerated eggs and ready-to-eat cereals were among the biggest decliners.

A major opportunity for brands to strengthen engagement with morning eating is to target people of all ages who skip breakfast altogether.

The practice is highest among Gen Z/younger millennials (56%), followed by older millennials (43%), Gen X (41%), younger baby boomers 38%) and older boomers/retirees/seniors (30%).

One commonality across all generations is the desire for healthier foods, with more than half (67%) prioritizing healthiness of morning food and beverage options. Specific nutritional benefits like vitamins and minerals were cited by 51% of consumers, while immunity benefits scored 30%.

Drilling down into generations, tea at breakfast “really popped with Gen Z and some Gen X” but not across all cohorts, says Watt.

Protein powders and shakes are among the top choices for all except older baby boomers and seniors—a trend-in-the-making for several years.

“You probably guessed it. It’s [about]making smoothies,” Watt explains. The trend of “getting nutrition from a beverage standpoint has definitely been continuing to grow and grow and grow over time.”

Food price inflation—owing in part to supply chain disruption—will influence choices going forward.

Watt: “Eight in 10 consumers noticed food and beverage price increases over the past year, with a vast majority changing their behavior as a result.”

Nearly half (48%) of consumers did more stocking up on breakfast foods, 43% paid more attention to product prices, and 33% reduced impulse purchases.

Generationally, younger households are most likely to change their shopping habits as a result of price increases. Therefore, it will be harder for brands to capture impulse purchases—particularly for older millennials.

“You [can] probably also expect that some consumers are going to turn to private brands over the next year, since the majority do not see a big difference versus name brand” breakfast foods, Watt says.

Specifically, that’s 66% of the consumers surveyed. “So if you’re a national brand, you’ve still got some work to do to help show your differentiation—what makes you different.”

Sustainability is top of mind in the purchase of morning-occasion products—with preferences for renewable packaging seeing huge growth in the past year.

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