The ‘most important meal of the day’ makes a comeback

There is little question that the ongoing recession has reshaped consumer habits. With more families eating more meals at home, such categories as breakfast foods have seen a resurgence in recent years.

And at the heart of it all is the ready-to-eat cereal category, which generates nearly 54% of sales of all breakfast foods. While a combination of discounting and tough year-over-year comparisons show the category down more than 2% from its peak at the beginning of the economic downturn, ready-to-eat cereal generated more than 12 shopping trips, according to mid-year 2010 data from the Nielsen Homescan consumer facts panel—that’s more than twice as many as any other breakfast food category. More than 92% of households made at least one ready-to-eat cereal purchase during that period, with the typical home spending $66.69.

With a rising awareness around healthier-for-you food products, many of these types of breakfast items are enticing consumer trial by marketing against a particular set of additional health claims. For example, sales of items making claims around flax or hemp seed were up 49.6% for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 4 across food, drug and mass outlets, including Walmart, according to Nielsen; sales of foods making antioxidant claims were up 26.6%, and sales of foods making fiber claims were up 5.3%.

Breakfast foods

*In millionsSource: The Nielsen Co. for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 4 across food, drug and mass (including Walmart)
Cereal (ready-to-eat) $8,131.6 -2.7%
Granola/yogurt bars 1,649.3 3.8
A/O frozen/refrigerated breakfast foods 1,263.6 7.1
Cereal (hot) 1,027.7 -5.2
Toaster pastries 952.4 -0.4
Frozen waffles/pancakes/french toast 811.8 -7.4
Breakfast bars 804.6 -5.3
Cereal (granola and natural types) 248.2 9.1
Hominy grits 111.8 -0.9
Instant breakfast (powdered) 106.1 2.6
Wheat germ 16.4 6.1
TOTAL $15,124.0 -1.5%