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The Start of Something Big

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Breakfast has come full circle. Once touted as the most important meal of the day, it’s been all but ignored by an ever-increasing contingent of consumers who can’t spare more than a few minutes to fuel up first thing in the morning. As health-and-wellness concerns restore breakfast to prominence, however, grocers of all stripes are helping shoppers make the most – nutritionally as well as in terms of value – of this underappreciated meal occasion. “Breakfast remains the meal … most people pay less attention to or skip altogether,” notes Pedro Mesa, store manager of a Coral Gables, Fla., Sedano’s store. “One of the biggest changes that we have noticed in the past few years is more concern for healthier items. For example, there has been a big increase [in] organic milk and soymilk from people that used to consume regular cow milk. In regards to milk, there has also been an increase of more than 50 percent on lactose-free milk. On eggs, there has been a trend of higher consumption of organic eggs and cage-free eggs. [S]hoppers don’t mind paying a little more, knowing they’re getting a healthier product.”
Even when shoppers are willing to pay a slightly higher price, value is still a key part of the equation. “Our Market Street guests are looking for foods that are healthy, convenient and budget-friendly,” says Alicia M. Brown, health and wellness marketing manager at the six-store upscale banner of Lubbock, Texas-based United Supermarkets. “In our Dallas- Fort Worth market, our guests are always ahead of the curve with health trends, foods and products, but they’re very busy and need something they can grab and go in the morning without bruising the wallet.
Essentially, our Market Street guests are looking for simple nutrition and breakfast items that are lower in sugar. We’ve also seen an increased interest in kid-friendly breakfast foods and juices that are low in sugar.” To help shoppers make more nutritious choices, Market Street’s center store offers a range of specialty, natural and organic breakfast foods. “On the cereal aisle, Kashi and Nature’s Path brands see a lot of movement,” adds Brown. “Vita Muffins/Vita Tops and Vans Waffles are popular breakfast brands among our guests, too.” The banner is also promoting its recent implementation of the NuVal nutrition-scoring program for foods eaten at breakfast and other times of the day. “This system takes into consideration over 30 nutrients and provides one simple score right on the price tag,” explains Brown. “The higher the score, the higher the nutrition. This enables our guests to make educated, healthy decisions quickly, and easily compare nutritional quality with price value.”
At Hialeah, Fla.-based Sedano’s, which operates 34 Hispanic-oriented stores in the Sunshine State, “the biggest splash [among breakfast items] has come from the recently introduced thin-sliced bagels” in various brands and varieties, including whole grain, observes Mesa. “Hot Pockets does a great job at bringing out new varieties of their breakfast
line … Kids love them and mothers, too, for their convenience and healthiness.”
Of course, as a grocer catering to Hispanics, Sedano’s provides certain unique products that remain popular among its shoppers, including traditional “Cuban crackers, [and] Spanish omelets, which now come ready to serve,” as Mesa points out. In common with Market Street, value factors heavily in Sedano’s breakfast food offerings. “[W]e always maintain some type of breakfast items in our weekly ad,” says Mesa. “We also have … private label bread and milk, which we keep at an everyday low price.”
The shift toward healthier items appears to be a permanent one, according to both grocers. “We’ve seen an increase in promotions that focus on the importance and benefits of a nutritional breakfast,” says Mesa. “We also believe more of the organic items will continue to become more popular.” He pegs breakfast bars, which marry the important trends of health, portability and relative value, as a big future seller at Sedano’s stores, since “there has been a big spike in the amount of new flavours and brands coming out, due to their convenience [as] an on-the-go food item.”
“I anticipate cereals will begin to decrease not only their sugar, but sodium content as well,” notes Market Street’s Brown. “Consumers are beginning to catch on that cereals are hidden salt traps. I also think we will see more foods being fortified. Manufacturers have already added omega-3s, fibre, calcium and vitamin D. There’s more to come. The two key functional statements in the breakfast foods category will be about lowering inflammation and boosting immunity.”
Natural Selection
For consumers interested in natural products, the choices are wider than ever – and Barbara’s Bakery aims to be front and centre in the natural foods section of the breakfast aisle. To aid consumers in locating its products, the Petaluma, Calif.-based company is undergoing what it calls a “natural makeover” of its brand, including a new logo, nutritionalhighlights, and cartons made from sustainable Green Choice, North America’s only certified recycled paperboard. “[L] aunching in summer 2010, look for our bold, simplified and 100 percent recycled packaging that celebrates Barbara’s being at the heart of the natural foods movement since 1971,” says Jacquie Perlmutter, brand manager at Barbara’s Bakery.
Shoppers are increasingly turning to natural products because of a greater awareness of what they should be eating, according to Perlmutter. “Consumers, and specifically moms, are educated and eager to find healthy options for their families,” she explains. “Today’s savvy consumer is reading labels and looking for breakfast foods that are high in whole grains and fibre, and sweetened naturally with honey, fruit juice and/ or brown rice syrup.
Likewise, there are several ingredients that consumers are looking to remove from their families’ diets completely, including artificial preservatives, artificial flavours and additives, trans fat, hydrogenated oils, and refined white sugar.”
To offer consumers even more options, Barbara’s has added several new products to its cereal line in the past year, including Multigrain Puffins, a gluten-free, lightly sweetened variety containing natural prebiotic NutraFlora fibre and zero trans fats. The company will also bring out a High Fibre line this summer.
Barbara’s has also focused on retail-level promotional activity to raise its products’ profile. “In 2009, we collaborated with a retailer that had its finger on the consumer’s pulse and wanted to launch an in-store ‘How I Changed the World’ contest,” recounts Perlmutter.
“Barbara’s has always been involved in youth and sustainable activities, so this project was a natural for us, since it allowed community youth to highlight their sustainability projects while the retailer allowed us to talk about the benefits of natural foods in creative floor displays. The contest response was significant, as was the sale volume. The program’s success was due to retail commitment and involvement – in this case, the retailer was [involved] in every step of the program’s design and execution, and offered enthusiastic instore support. Also, Barbara’s made it easy for consumers with a custom Web entry portal, because we know how Web-savvy most young people are. So, [the] bottom line is that it takes two to make a successful manufacturer- retail promotion!” 
Also last year, Barbara’s rolled out a retail incentive coupon at register, which Perlmutter called “a very good experience.” The coupon, which offered a discount on a Barbara’s whole grain cereal, “was definitely a winwin because the targeted product sold a high volume for the retailer, and consumers were happy to find a great value – nutritionally and price-wise – in a Barbara’s offering they might not have tried before,” she adds. 
In considering what trends are on the horizon, Perlmutter believes the items Barbara’s has been manufacturing for four decades have carved out a permanent niche: “Products that contain whole grains and oats, [and] are high in fibre, gluten-free, low-sodium and all natural, are the present, and future, of the breakfast foods category.” 
Bread for Breakfast
The days of toast with butter and jam for breakfast aren’t exactly over, but consumers now have a lot more to choose from among commercial breakfast baked goods – and they’re increasingly looking for healthier Products.
“When it comes to breakfast foods in the bread aisle, consumers are looking for tried-and-true favorites, for items with healthy attributes and for some new flavour twists on those old favourites,” notes Janice Anderson, VP of marketing at Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods, which manufacturers the Nature’s Own line of baked goods.
“Cinnamon and cinnamon raisin breads, original bagels, and original English muffins continue to be the long-time bestsellers in the category …. But consumers today are realising that change can be healthy and delicious. So the breakfast bread category is expanding with new flavour options and items with better-foryou attributes. That’s why … Nature’s Own … includes more than just plain muffins and bagels. Consumers can choose from 100 percent whole wheat bagels, blueberry bagels, and English muffins that come in 100 percent whole wheat and multigrain varieties.” 
But beyond offering whole grain options, how exactly do makers of baked goods go about making their products more nutritious? “By its very nature, bread is a good-for-you breakfast choice, but bakers today are boosting the healthy attributes of breads and breakfast breads,” explains Anderson. This is done in different ways, from adding certain nutrients to portion control. For example, all of our Nature’s Own breakfast items are good sources of calcium and vitamins A, D and E. Our 100 percent whole wheat and multigrain varieties offer the health benefits of whole grains and fibre.
And all of the breakfast items contain no high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).”
Portion control in particular, has caught on in the breakfast bread segment, according to Anderson, and Nature’s Own is right at the forefront of that trend. “We recently introduced Nature’s Own Thin-Sliced Bagels that offer the same taste as traditional bagels, but with about half the calories,” she says. “They, too, are good sources of calcium and vitamins A, D, and E, and contain no HFCS or artificial preservatives, colors or flavours.”
What’s more, the company is dedicated to improving its items based on shopper feedback. “We are constantly reviewing our product lineup to make sure we’re offering the varieties our consumers are asking for,” observes Anderson. “The new varieties of English muffins, bagels and breakfast breads rolled out in 2009 were in direct response to consumer demand for new breakfast options. We developed our thinsliced bagels after consumers told us that while they liked the taste and texture of bagels, regular bagels were just too big. With a thinner bagel, they can now enjoy bagels toasted or as a sandwich.”
With these latest introductions, she adds, the Nature’s Own Special Mornings breakfast line now consists of 13 items: four English muffin varieties, seven types of bagels, and two kinds breakfast breads.
The growth possibilities of the segment look good as well. “[B]reakfast bread … has a lot going for it,” says Anderson. “Like all bread products, breakfast breads are convenient, portable, taste good and are relatively inexpensive. Most breakfast bread items cost about 50 cents per serving. We’ve positioned our Nature’s Own brand so it offers a wide array affordable, healthy and great-tasting breakfast choices.”
To build on its current success, Flowers Foods is keeping a close eye on emerging shopping and eating patterns so it can further tailor its products to consumer needs. “Recent reports show that fewer people are going through the drive-through for breakfast these days,” notes Anderson. “We believe these consumers are taking advantage of the cost savings and convenience of at-home eating, or are choosing to eat on the go with food prepared at home. We’re closely monitoring this and other consumer trends so we’re ready with more new products that meet consumers’ changing needs.”
Breakfast All Day Long
At Minneapolis-based General Mills, breakfast is big business – and consumers just can’t seem to get enough of it. As the company’s manager of corporate public relations, Heidi Geller, wittily puts it: “Breakfast isn’t just for breakfast anymore.”
Citing recent Mintel research finding that over half (52 percent) of respondents say that they often eat “breakfast foods” for lunch or dinner, Geller notes that the items’ all-day popularity “support[s] the cause for promoting breakfast from home as an anytime meal.” Additionally, she observes, “With the in-home breakfast per capita on the rise, consumers are focused on health, convenience and taste in their breakfast decision.”
New breakfast items introduced so far this year by the manufacturer – each addressing at least one of these consumer need states – include Chocolate Cheerios, Wheaties Fuel, Fibre One 90 Calorie Bars, and Yoplait Greek yogurt in four flavours. Also, consumer research conducted by General Mills has pinpointed how the breakfast experience varies by time of week, Geller points out, which results in different food choices. “Weekday mornings are very busy and scheduled, which leave little time to squeeze anything else in,” she explains. “Weekday breakfasts are convenient/fast, more functional and consumed as individuals throughout the house or on the go. Family members generally make their own breakfasts and consume [them] alone, based on each person’s schedule. Weekday breakfast is about ‘getting something in the stomach.’”
Meanwhile, “[w]eekend mornings are more leisurely, due to less scheduled activities, and everyone tends to get up on their own time. Mom is more likely to take the time to prep and cook. Breakfasts are enjoyed slowly, often a warm breakfast with more variety. [The] family is likely to eat together and reconnect emotionally.”
In the area of promotions, General Mills has placed special emphasis on health in its print and TV advertising, notes Geller. For instance, Cheerios touts its heart-healthy attributes, while the MultiGrain and Honey Nut Cheerios varieties play up their weight management and cholesterollowering benefits, respectively. Other promoted health advantages include Chex’s gluten-free ingredients and Kix’s all-natural profile. The company also cross-merchandises its cereal and grain snack products to encourage shoppers to purchase items from both categories.
Further, to help consumers understand just what they’re eating for breakfast, General Mills offers a brochure detailing “The Benefits of Cereal” on its Web site, www.generalmills. Com.
In-store, General Mills has taken to holding what Geller refers to as “breakfast theme events,” which aim to educate consumers on the importance of a healthy breakfast, drive meal solution alternatives through the mixing and matching of products that can last the week, and span categories and temperature states.
Further, heavy new-item feature and display support provides category excitement by introducing shoppers to new breakfast options, as well as solidly positioning the product for repeat purchase. In fact, one new item so supported, Chocolate Cheerios, is “[p]rojected to be one of General Mills’ top five new cereals introduced in the last 10 years,” says Geller.
For the future, with weight management, hypertension and cholesterol emerging as top health concerns for consumers, Geller says that the company plans to broaden the breakfast category’s health platform, with more fibre-rich and reducedcalorie offerings; the continuation of its whole grain message, particularly in ready-to-eat cereals; and the enrichment of children’s cereals with calcium and vitamin D.    
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