Tony the Tiger may not have much reason to wake up with a smile.
American families no longer seem to sit around the breakfast table, feasting on Frosted Flakes and drinking orange juice. Only 35% of Americans eat that kind of traditional breakfast seven days a week, according to a recent survey by CivicScience, a consumer analytics platform. About 21% said they eat breakfast four to six times a week, and 20% said they eat breakfast one to three mornings a week.
Additionally, Kellogg Co. K,
which invented Corn Flakes and makes a range of other cereals including Frosted Flakes and Special K, plans to split into two publicly traded companies in the fourth quarter of this year. Although Kellogg’s started primarily as a cereal company, about 60% of its 2022 sales came from snack foods, such as Pringles, Cheez-It crackers, Pop-Tarts and Rice Krispies Treats.
The company said last month that its North American grains business will be combined into the new WK Kellogg Co., which will trade under the ticker symbol “KLG.” The remainder of the company will be merged into a company called Kellanova, which will continue to trade under the current ticker symbol ‘K’. Analysts see this as an important sign of changing consumer tastes.
“Time-poor consumers are more likely to grab an energy bar or breakfast sandwich on the way to the office.”
What is happening? Higher food prices may also take a toll on America’s love of traditional breakfasts; General Mills GIS,
causing Cheerios to cut its full-year profit forecast in June, citing inflationary pressures that were hurting demand.
General Mills did not respond to a request for comment.
Many grains in particular seem to be gradually losing their appeal. Unit sales of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal fell 3.9% last year and 8.7% in 2021, after rising 5.2% in 2020, according to data compiled by Circana and cited by Wall Street Journal.
Time-poor consumers – whether they have a hybrid or full-time back-to-the-office work schedule – are more likely to grab an energy bar or purchase a breakfast sandwich on the way to the office. “The leading trend is always the same: convenience,” says Michael Swanson, chief agricultural economist at the Wells Fargo Agri-Food Institute. “People want minimal preparation and no clean-up.”
We also live in a more health-conscious world than previous generations. Many traditional breakfast cereals contain refined sugars and, unlike the sugars in fruit and milk, may lack protein, fiber, fat and other nutrients. A 1½-cup serving of corn flakes contains 4 grams of added sugar, plus 300 milligrams of sodium.
Kellogg’s did not respond to a request for comment.
Pandemic stress caused high school students to skip breakfast
It’s not just grain consumption that has fallen; Some people skip breakfast altogether. More high school students have been skipping breakfast and eating fewer fruits and vegetables lately, according to a study published last April by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Three in four U.S. high school students said they did not eat breakfast consistently in the past week in 2021, the report found. Female students were more likely to report having this skip breakfast than their male counterparts, with just over 80% of female respondents compared to 69.9% of male respondents reporting that they skip breakfast. Native American, black and Latino students were more likely to do so skip breakfast than their white and Asian counterparts, found the CDC.
The findings were concerning to CDC researchers, who noted that missing breakfast is one of the “poor dietary behaviors” linked to chronic health conditions and poor mental health..
“It’s not a meal you want to miss,” says Jerlyn Jones, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of the Atlanta-based private practice Lifestyle Dietitian LLC. Eating breakfast at a good time — within about two hours of waking up — is crucial for providing the essential nutrients the body needs after seven to 10 hours of sleep, she told MarketWatch.
““It’s not a meal you want to miss.””
Skipping breakfast affects the body in several ways. Studies show that leaving the house without a good meal can lead to missing out on key nutrients, and has a worse impact on diet quality than skipping dinner, according to research from the Economic Research Service (ERS). ) of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Diet fads like intermittent fasting for weight loss may help people focus and lose weight, scientists suggest, and that could be why some people report feeling more energetic and productive before they’ve had breakfast.
Although the body naturally adapts to new eating habits when skipping breakfast, that doesn’t mean it’s a smart decision for everyone, Jones said. People should consult a doctor or registered dietitian before beginning intermittent fasting, especially those who are taking medications or have ongoing health problems, Jones added.
Someone who skips breakfast may become accustomed to hunger early in the day and not eat – meaning they don’t get the nutrients their body needs in the morning, or they may starve before lunch and then turn to anything can satisfy his hunger. Ultimately, they compromise their nutritional needs.
“When it comes down to it, your body is just looking for any type of food,” Jones told MarketWatch. “And it may not be the most nutritious food you can eat. It’s just looking for carbohydrates in their simplest form, like sugar.” This could, for example, explain the urge for a pastry, chocolate bar or a packet of salted chips as the day progresses.
Being busy and feeling tired even when you have time to prepare breakfast are common reasons people choose to skip breakfast, viewing the skipped meal as a way to lose weight, Jones said .
Likewise, pandemic-era stress could also be a contributing factor, CDC researchers said in the April report. During the pandemic, the decline in breakfast eating among young adults was accompanied by an increase in snacking later in the afternoon and evening on high-calorie processed foods, a research paper published last year found. Certain students may have moved away from healthy foods and turned to unhealthy alternatives as a way to relieve stress after losing daily structure, the CDC researchers said.
The rise of breakfast bars and other grab-and-go items
For those still eating their morning meal, breakfast bars or energy bars are the new hot item for busy people looking for an affordable and quick option for morning energy.
Sales of energy bars in the U.S. are expected to grow to $8.5 billion this year, up from about $7 billion in 2020, according to market research firm Mintel.
Conditions such as “inflation, hybrid work schedules and general consumer burnout” are the factors that continue to draw consumers to energy bars, says Sydney Olson, a senior food and beverage analyst at Mintel, in a recent report on snacking and nutrition. Consumers are not only faced with financial constraints, but also with general fatigue. Energy bars became popular because they are relatively cheap and convenient, and consumers see them as “a healthy snack,” the report said.
““US sales of energy bars grew from approximately $7 billion in 2020 to a projected $8.5 billion by 2023.””
“Consumers still eat breakfast, but they like the convenience of bars,” said Wells Fargo agricultural economist Swanson.
The decline in grain production is also affecting milk sales, Swanson said. The dairy industry has seen a big decline in fluid milk consumption as ready-to-eat cereal products have lost market share to grab-and-go bars, he added.
In addition to breakfast bars, people are turning to breakfast sandwiches from the grocery store, Swanson added. He has noticed companies spending more money on producing egg patties for breakfast sandwiches.
While the nature of the meal may have changed, most people still eat something in the morning – even if it’s not the traditional American breakfast of yesteryear. About 84% of Americans over the age of 2 surveyed between 2017 and 2020 said they had at least one item for breakfast, according to the most recent USDA data. They just don’t do as well as nutritionists would like.
People need to aim for a balanced breakfast, with proteins, carbohydrates and a little fat. If you don’t have time in the morning, it can help to prepare a morning meal the night before, or breakfast can be as simple as a slice of whole-grain bread spread with peanut butter, Jones said.
Not everything we would consider breakfast provides sufficient nutrients the brain and body to function as they should, she said.
“Unfortunately, in our society, we are missing out on nutrients,” says Jones. People don’t get enough essential nutrients, such as vitamin D and calcium, because they skip meals or eat foods that don’t have the right nutrients, she added.
‘So no, coffee [alone] not going to work,” Jones said. “We definitely need more than just coffee to get you going.”