As with everything in life, you get different answers depending on who you speak to. So, when it comes to breakfast, if you speak to cereal company Kellogg’s they say more people are eating breakfast at home to save money. But if you speak to food-to-go specialist Country Choice, they report no evidence of this.

However, one thing is sure, breakfast is an increasingly important meal occasion for forecourt retailers whether they’re selling sausage baps or cereals. You could be an outlet that services dozens of ’white van men’ every day or which acts as a top-up shop for mums with young families whichever it is, a decent breakfast range is vital.

According to Mintel’s recent Breakfast Eating Habits Report, two-thirds of consumers eat breakfast at home every day, rising to 78% of over-55s and 85% of those who are retired. Younger consumers typically eat breakfast at home less often. While 16% of all consumers eat breakfast at home two or three times a week, this rises to 20% of 25-34-year-olds and drops down to only 10% of over-55s.

The Mintel report says that during the week, the most popular options for eating breakfast out of the home are:

at my desk at work (26%)

in the car/on the go (20%)

at a fast food chain (16%).

And those aged 16-24 are almost twice as likely to eat breakfast in the car or on the go than the average, and are almost four times as likely to eat breakfast at their desk.

Country Choice can definitely help you with your on-the-go breakfast offer.

The company’s marketing controller, Stephen Clifford, says: "’Underlying sales of breakfast items such as bacon and sausage baps have been strong this year. And we’ve also seen more retailers introducing our breakfast programme as part of their food-to-go menu."

He continues: "Our breakfast programme is extremely simple to operate. The baps are simply defrosted overnight so they’re ready first thing in the morning, and the fillings even the bacon and omelette are all just baked in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. With the ingredients ready, the bap is then assembled, wrapped in the special Country Choice packaging, and can be displayed for up to two hours.

"An added advantage of the breakfast programme is that by simply replacing the breakfast ingredients with a burger and cheese, forecourt retailers can expand their hot food offer into a burger programme for lunchtime."

He says far from breakfast-to-go sales being in decline, Country Choice sees further growth ahead: "And that is why it remains one of the main focus points of our ongoing new product development. It’s not just hot food that is doing well. Our sales of croissants have also been very strong this year with growth in the region of 13% year-on-year."

Sticking with croissants, Claire Warren, senior brand manager at Bakehouse, believes consumers are looking for ’affordably indulgent’ pastries.

"Our latest sales data shows that consumers are after premium, indulgent products whether sweet or savoury for eating breakfast on-the-go.

"In the convenience sector, savouries over-trade, but sales of Viennoiserie (croissant, pain au chocolat and pain raisin) and Danish pastries continue to grow." All these products are available from Bakehouse to ’bake-off’ in store.

"Baking freshly in store means not only is there a great aroma to encourage purchase but that the products are always as fresh as they can be," says Warren. "It is also essential to clearly communicate ’fresh baking’ to customers and to promote your freshly-baked offering as much as possible. Retailers can market their products to customers by offering deals such as a Danish and a coffee; breakfast specials; ’3 for 2’ on products; and, if there’s room, even providing a seating area for customers to enjoy coffee and a pastry."

Onto cereal and Jennie Miller, category insight controller at Kellogg’s, says people are definitely looking for cheaper dining options. "Last year the total value of the breakfast industry was £7bn (Kantar Worldpanel data) and the average value of each at-home breakfast occasion was 43p.

"The relatively low cost of breakfast provides an opportunity for the category when shoppers are feeling the pinch.  Shoppers are filling up on the cheapest meal of the day and as a result we have seen an increase in the number of people who eat breakfast every day.

"Our shoppers tell us that the key to the forecourt sector is speed, with our research showing that people spend less time shopping in petrol stations than any other convenience stores.

"With this in mind it is imperative that you make the buying process as easy and as quick as possible. You want to stock the fastest-selling, most popular products."

Her recommendation for cereals to be eaten at home is Weetabix original; Crunchy Nut flakes; Special K original; Corn Flakes; Coco Pops; Rice Krispies; Bran Flakes; Oats So Simple; Frosties; and the Kellogg’s variety pack.

For cereal snacks to eat on-the-go, she recommends: Rice Krispies Squares totally chocolatey; Rice Krispies Squares marshmallow; Nutri Grain Soft Bake strawberry; Elevenses Raisin Bake; Tracker chocolate chip; Special K red berries; Nutri Grain Soft Bake apple; and Crunchy Nut peanut crisp.

"Shelf space in forecourts is limited so we’d recommend covering as many of the top sellers as possible. It’s also important to cover as many shoppers’ needs as possible.  For example, for adults wanting taste we recommend Crunchy Nut and for people wanting to manage their weight, Special K is a good option.

"Oats So Simple could be included to provide a hot product option. This could be rotated in summer and something lighter brought in," continues Miller.

Toast is another breakfast favourite. Martin Garlick, category director at Warburtons, reckons its speedy preparation works in its favour.

"We know that 77% of breakfasts are consumed in under 10 minutes (Kantar Worldpanel data), which has increased by 2% since last year, while 72% of breakfasts are eaten at a single sitting, making toast and other bakery products a great choice for people in a hurry."

He says Warburtons has invested heavily to offer consumers high-quality traditional breakfast products such as crumpets and muffins.

"Treat breakfast products such as croissants and brioche are also in positive growth.

"The key drivers are consumers’ interest in novelty, taste and convenience which these products provide combined with their ability to provide an incremental, often impulse bakery purchase rather than a substitutional one to retailers."

Coffee time

"Breakfast time means coffee time starting the day without a caffeine fix is unthinkable for many consumers and forecourts are catching on," says Scott Martin, chief executive officer at Costa Express.

Coffee Nation, which was acquired by Whitbread owner of Costa in March, is set to roll out re-branded Costa Express machines from this month. It has had self-serve gourmet coffee machines in forecourts for years. "The peak usage of our machines has consistently been between 7am and 9am," says Martin. "This shows that although there is a demand for hot drinks throughout the day, particularly in the forecourt sector where motorists break and refuel during long journeys, the majority of people still observe traditional breakfast times.

"The new Costa Express brand brings together Coffee Nation’s tried-and-tested machines with the clout of Costa’s branding and the "nation’s favourite" coffee products, a combination that will appeal to a broad range of consumers on the move." Martin reckons self-serve is perfect for forecourts where there may be no space or staff to run a manned coffee bar.

"Equipped with Coffee Nation’s best-in-class technology, Costa Express machines will serve Costa’s popular range of coffee products 24 hours a day and challenge archaic, negative perceptions of vended coffee being of sub-standard quality.

"The Costa Express unmanned coffee bars use fresh milk only (no powder), real Costa Mocha Italia coffee beans, and take up just one square metre of space. They retain the popular touch-screens and are available in both Chip & PIN and ’pay at till’ versions."


Breakfast is on the up

Clive Sheppard, director of the Chartman Group, which operates eight forecourt sites in the South West of England, remains upbeat on the sale of breakfast products and with good reason: "Food-to-go and breakfast sales are assuming increasing importance for us as a group. With fewer people on the road we are witnessing suppressed fuel volumes and so the profit generated by sales of food and drink is obviously very welcome.

"We offer a wide range of breakfast products including breakfast baps, sausage baps and bacon baps, which we source direct from Country Choice.

"Associated with this we have also seen a significant rise in the amount of coffee we are selling. It seems consumers cannot get enough of it, with sales across our sites up by an average of 17% year-on-year.

"I have heard a suggestion in some quarters that more consumers are choosing to eat breakfast at home but if this is happening it is certainly not something we are seeing manifest itself at our forecourts."

breakfast IN BRIEF

Richard Brown, PepsiCo, forecourt and travel controller, reports really positive feedback from customers who have trialled the Quaker Oat So Simple pots which were launched in January. "The new format has attracted more customers to the brand and this has been incremental to the category. It’s great for stores to offer a healthier option given food-to-go is one of the most important missions for forecourt shoppers, apart from fuel. If forecourts want to provide a nutritious breakfast, which also ticks the box for convenience, then they should stock Quaker Oat So Simple pots." The pots are available in original, golden syrup and apple & blueberry varieties.

Kirstie Jamieson, marketing manager for Rowse, reminds forecourt retailers not to forget honey as a key breakfast item. "As the UK’s favourite honey brand, accounting for over a third of honey sales (AC Nielsen), Rowse has had a strong year. Recent data reveals that the total spreads market is up 3.9% year-on-year, and honey is now the second largest spread category after jam, accounting for 24% of sales. "Despite being an incredibly versatile product, our research demonstrates that over 48% of consumers still predominantly use honey as a spread, for example on toast. However, a further 27% of consumers use it as a topping on breakfast foods or puddings."

Breakfast Top 10 in forecourts

1.      Sausage roll

2.      Bacon & cheese turnover

3.      Breakfast bap

4.      Bacon bap

5.      Sausage bap

6.      Bacon/sausage/omelette

7.      Croissant

8.      Pain au chocolat

9.      Cheese & onion roll

10.  Brunchie bake

Source: Country Choice