In light of the changing ways in which consumers digest their food and information, there has never been a greater need for the food industry to adopt a mindset of nimbleness, agility and transparency.

The changes that have shaped the breakfast daypart are a reflection of today’s evolving shopper. However, while consumers may have changed the way they eat, their needs remain the same—functional foods that don’t sacrifice taste for nutrition.

Manufacturers must embrace these changes in order to remain relevant. Not only are the days of shopping based purely on taste, smell and texture gone, but brands must also realize the flipside of functional ingredients as education.

With the onset of functional ingredients, there has also been an increase in grazing, which is disrupting America’s cultural normalcy of three square meals per day. Now, because the nation’s foodies have become a nation of snackers, each snack has more meaning. It must work harder to satisfy consumers’ moment-to-moment appetite, all while propelling them from daily hurdle to daily hurdle.

Today, there is a major need for grocery leaders and brands to take consumers in stride as they continue to evolve.

Educate shoppers about the beauty of breakfast, and beyond.

In a study from Kerry Ingredients, Beloit, Wis., 65% of consumers reported that they seek functional benefits from their food and drink. That’s 65% of consumers who are more diligent about reading the nutritional panel on the back of each package, 65% of consumers looking for food that can fuel their lifestyles and 65% of consumers interested in ingredients proven by science to be nutritionally beneficial.

Furthermore, a study from Mintel, Chicago, found 39% of respondents value high protein when purchasing breakfast foods, 33% value an ingredient panel free from artificial ingredients, 28% value items with no additives and preservatives and 21% prefer organic selections. These findings highlight the high level of consumer demand for premium, nutritious and high-quality breakfast food.

Food manufacturers and food processors must elevate their offerings to cater to these consumers demanding more from their breakfast foods. Similarly, there is a major opportunity to capitalize on these trends by finding natural, whole food ingredients they can highlight in their breakfast foods, particularly where the grab-and-go category is concerned.

Make breakfast an all-day affair.

Further opportunity lies in making breakfast foods convenient beyond the breakfast daypart. The food industry can bring greater importance to breakfast as a meal, especially as snacking makes waves throughout the industry. By promoting products that are functional for a variety of occasions, and by effectively emphasizing their convenience, affordability and nutritional value, we can bring to light the importance of each of these attributes for consumers.

From quick-service restaurants to grocery retail brands, all-day breakfast offerings appeal to the current “what I want, when I want it” consumer mindset. Food manufacturers can implement convenient options suitable for all-day consumption to capitalize on this trend, particularly in the refrigerated and frozen aisles, as well as in grab-and-go sections of the store.

Eggs, for instance, are the perfect showcase for those hoping to capitalize on the increased interest in high-quality protein, nutrient-rich foods and convenience. Highlighting eggs in new breakfast products appeals to consumer demand for real ingredients, nutrition, high protein and all-day breakfast options. In fact, the egg category has helped to streamline the ingredient panels of a number of products by offering just this. Featuring a single ingredient as opposed to a long list of unrecognizable ones, eggs are seen as inherently natural and an easy step to cleaning up and simplifying diets while providing high-quality protein.

Take tangible action with education.

Whether consumers are concerned about a clean nutritional label, non-GMO claims or humane standards, brands and retailers leading the industry in big, long-lasting change have made the conscious decision to adapt to their shoppers’ needs. This has guided deeper conversations within the egg category, and has encouraged shoppers to take greater consideration in their purchasing decisions. In an effort to take back breakfast, the food industry as a whole can facilitate change on a larger scale by truly considering shoppers’ evolving needs.

Because shoppers are at risk for being pulled from claim to claim and functional benefit to benefit, manufacturers must work with retailers to create signage that guides them through the various egg options available in their egg set. Fostering transparency and inviting important conversations, simple signs or channel strips defining cage-free, free-range, organic and pasture-raised, in particular, would help shoppers make the selection that lines up best with what they value. With this additional information available, they just may be motivated to trade up in categories and purchase more premium items.  

Each year, content is produced that tells us what we already assume to be true. That is, that we’re busier than ever. In light of our on-the-go lives, grazing has replaced the need to sit down and enjoy a meal. Now, it’s necessary that each snack keep our bodies and minds sharp as we rush out the door. These shifts within the food industry do not need to rattle brands. Although, they should inspire new action.