Take the fact that a growing numbers of time-strapped consumers say they eat breakfast on the go. Combine that with the long-standing tradition of protein as part of breakfast fare.
Add the knowledge that protein is an appetite quencher and you’ve got a recipe that helps explain the growing number of high-protein breakfast products on grocery shelves.
In Canada, these include Special K Protein Cereal and Flatbread Breakfast Sandwich, Greek yogurt that contains more protein than other yogurt, and protein drinks such as Saputo’s Milk2Go Sport and Kellogg’s To Go Milk Chocolate Breakfast Shake.
To Louis Giguère, senior director at the Montreal food and health agency Enzyme, such products are partially a response to the popularity of high-in-protein breakfast sandwiches at QSRs such as McDonald’s and Tim Hortons.
He believes the “to go” factor is the key equation in most of these new products, while the high protein factor matters slightly less.
Giguère’s view is backed by the 2011 National Household Survey in the U.S. that found 41% of consumers and 55% of generation Yers said they have breakfast on the way to work. “There’s an al-desko trend of eating breakfast at work,” Giguère says.
Jim Murphy, president of General Mills’ cereal division in the U.S., recently noted that consumers are replacing their cereal bowls with foods higher in protein and lower in carbs and easier to eat on the go.
The result has been a drop in dry-cereal sales. In the U.S., General Mills saw a 2% net sales decline in 2013 for its whole grain cereals such as Cheerios.
The situation is much the same in Canada where, according to Nielsen, ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal sales fell by 1% in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 24, 2013, compared to one year earlier.
For frazzled consumers who apparently don’t have enough time to pour milk and cereal into a bowl, the satiety provided by high-protein breakfast products is a big plus.
According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating a high-protein breakfast not only leads to increased feelings of fullness but also reduces evening snacking on high-fat or high-sugar foods, compared to a normal protein breakfast from RTE cereal.
“Consumers [seem] more aware of the benefits of consuming high-protein products” and not only for working out, but for day-to-day, says Philippe Duhamel, marketing manager at Saputo. The company recently launched Milk2Go Sport, which contains 26 grams of protein per 325 ml bottle.
“Beyond the benefits of muscle repair and dulling hunger, studies have shown that protein can help prevent obesity, [Type 2] diabetes and heart disease,” Duhamel says. That makes higher-protein, ready-to-drink products good “for anyone pressed for time.” He says grocers could grow the category by providing more space in the dairy case.
Natasha Miller, director of adult brands at Kellogg Canada, says protein-rich breakfasts help women avoid temptation and deal with weight management.
Indeed, an Angus Reid survey conducted for Kellogg Canada in October found that while 94% of Canadian women know that protein will help satisfy hunger, 29% say their breakfast doesn’t provide them with enough protein.
Small wonder, then, that Kellogg and other cereal giants are responding to a decline in traditional cereal sales by taking welknown brands, such as Special K, into new protein-rich categories, Giguère says.
Harold Simpkins, a senior lecturer in the department of marketing at Concordia University in Montreal, sees the protein-rich drinks as modern extensions of Nestlé’s Carnation Instant Breakfast, introduced in 1964.
“If anything is going to resonate strongly with these products, it’s that they’re better for you than what you’re currently eating,” he says.
Giguère maintains that grocers are losing “share of stomach” to QSRs and need to position themselves as providing breakfast solutions to preserve their share of the breakfast market.
To compete, grocers should position breakfast products together. Some are already doing that by grouping products in flyers.
“Breakfast should become more than ‘we have a good price on peanut butter, a good price on bread and a good price on cereals.’ [Grocers] should market a full breakfast experience,” Giguère says.