Cereal, OJ and Coffee for Breakfast? Not So Much Anymore

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Breakfast in America is undergoing some major changes. The popularity of cold cereal has gone mushy. Orange juice sales are at an all-time low. Home-brewed coffee consumption is weak.

There's also been a significant shift in how we eat breakfast. The demands of work and parenthood mean we average just 12 to 13 minutes on breakfast. Some people are looking for a better nutritional balance -- more protein and less sugar -- and for others, breakfast has become a collection of snacks.

Fruit, yogurt (especially Greek yogurt), breakfast bars, breakfast sandwiches and toaster pastries are in. "They're the new convenient breakfast," said Harry Balzer, chief food industry analyst at NPD Group. "Only yogurt needs a spoon. The rest are eat as is. You don't even have to sit down."

The Fast Food Version

Fast food chains are trying to capitalize on our desire to eat fast and eat on the run. In fact, breakfast is the only segment of their business that's growing. As a result, many chains are introducing items for the breakfast crowd. Taco Bell (YUM) has the Waffle Taco, and Dunkin' Donuts offers an eggs benedict sandwich. Burger King (BKW) just spent $11 billion to buy the Canadian doughnut and coffee chain Tim Hortons (THI), partly to capture more of the breakfast market. Of course, industry giants McDonald's (MCD) Starbucks (SBUX) and Subway added breakfast years ago.

"Even when you eat out, breakfast is relatively inexpensive," according to Phil Lempert, editor of supermarketguru.com. "People like to eat out, and breakfast is a cheap and convenient way to do it."

Too Much Sugar?

The changes in our breakfast habits are having a huge impact on some food and beverage industry giants. Kellogg (K), the nation's leading cereal maker, recently reported a 16 percent drop in quarterly earnings, and General Mills (GIS), the second largest cereal maker, is also struggling.
Sales of cold cereal fell by 5 percent in the second quarter from a year ago. According to Balzer, cereal consumption peaked in 1996, when 38 percent of all Americans started their day with a bowl of cereal. That's down to 29 percent now.

The slump in sales of orange juice has been even steeper. Nielsen reports sales dropped 9 percent in July from a year ago and 39 percent from a decade ago, to the lowest level since it began tracking the numbers in 2002.

Not that long ago, a bowl of cereal and a glass of OJ was considered a healthy meal, but recent attention on the high level of sugar in both has hurt their image. OJ sales are also being hurt by the high price, partly because of a supply shortage. The average price for a gallon of orange juice has soared to about $6.45. Forecasters expect Florida's orange harvest to be the smallest it's been in about 50 years.

Orange juice sales have also been squeezed by greater competition from sports and energy drinks, water and other juices. "We're seeing more exotic juices, two or three fruits mixed together," said Lempert. "It's more interesting from a flavor profile as well from a health profile."

Coffee consumption has had a bit of a revival after many lean years, helped by the growing popularity of single-serve coffee pods, even though some experts say that trend may be leveling off.

Produce and Protein?

The trend of fast, easy and more nutritious is likely to continue. "The next generation of fast food at home and eating out could be to include more produce," according to Lempert. "That will help from a nutritional standpoint." He says many people are also looking to add more protein at the start of the day by including nuts, tofu and meat.

Despite all of the changes, we haven't given up on the traditional breakfast altogether, and cereal makers are reformulating products to add protein and fiber and reduce sugar. "Most of us will still have cereal sometime in the morning in the next few weeks," said Balzer. "What's changed is the frequency."


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Melanie

I'm an old fashioned girl so I drink coffee first thing in the morning followed by either cereal or turkey bacon and eggs for breakfast and all done at home. Easier to control salt and fat intake than eating out and less expensive.

September 01 2014 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
SedonaSoul

There are some good cereals out there. Low sugar, Non-GMO, Fiber and Organic. Natures Path makes some good cereals. I love the Corn Flakes. I also love Oatmeal. Add fresh fruit to it and you have a great breakfast. Speeding thru breakfast with toaster pastries or fast foods is not for me.

September 01 2014 at 9:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
rbearland

Back when I was in the 'Rat Race' I'd hit a restaurant every morning while on the way to work. It turns out many do this and we become acquainted and socialize during coffee and food.

Today, I am proud to have my breakfast at home over 90% of the time each month. An array of Cereals combined with milk and/or water, yogart, blue berries, peach slices, prunes, raspberries, etc. Home made coffee...and, if I go out, I use a McDonalds styrofoam type cup...they distribute the best coffee cup in the fast food business - capable of being used over thirty times if you take care of them.

Still like Waffle House sometimes on Sunday mornings, and McDonalds on trips or even Hardees or a local place near the Court House.

August 31 2014 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LizAndrsn

Breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day, but the biggest profit maker if you eat out.
Cereal is ridiculous. It's highly processed GMO leftovers double dunked in sugar to make it interesting. And the price has sky rocketed while the boxes continue to get smaller. We're Consumers, not stupid (well, most of us aren't).

August 30 2014 at 5:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to LizAndrsn's comment
rbearland

If you shop the cereals and look at the nutrition label, you can locate low sugar ones, high fiber, protein, etc.

I figure since we consume grocery store products (usually found on sale BOGO or 1/2 off) that each single breakfast at home costs at least 50% less than outside.....probably more like 75% less when you throw in vehicle usage cost...

How about them apples for you beer and whisky breakfast critters who posted below?

August 31 2014 at 2:15 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
sadiemae1214

Breakfast ? Last nights leftovers !!!!!!

August 30 2014 at 3:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ga7smi

2 eggs fried in butter, toast, potatoes, bacon or kippers and a glass of Jack Daniels - the real breakfast of champions

August 30 2014 at 12:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jhrooney

Breakfast these days is Starbucks and a granola bar.

August 29 2014 at 7:40 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
The Wise One

I will ALWAYS take the time to make the kind of breakfast that I want and wish to enjoy enjoy from scratch. I will simply get up earlier if necessary. No store bought, chemical laden, off the shelf, fast food JUNK for me!

August 29 2014 at 6:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dbear4u2

I thought the all-American breakfast was Wheaties and a 6 pack of beer.

August 29 2014 at 5:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alfredschrader

Waffles are better. Buy the Black and Decker automatic maker. It makes four waffles at a time.
The mix comes in a box and you add milk.
Stack them on a warm plate with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and Redi whip whipped cream.

August 29 2014 at 12:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply