Breakfast of Champions
Many consider it the most important meal of the day, but a healthy and filling breakfast can get lost in the shuffle while rushing everyone out the door for school and work. Retailers can help parents and kids find satisfying options that will jumpstart young minds and provide go-to foods they'll come back for throughout the year.
"Breakfast is essential if a child is expected to pay attention and learn in class that morning," says Melanie Potock, co-author of "Raising a Healthy Happy Eater: A Stage by Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating." While families may idealize sitting down for a hot meal in the morning, there are plenty of on-the-go options that can get the job done, she says.
Small meals and snacking continue to replace larger meals for many Americans, and breakfast is no exception. Packaged Facts outlines this trend in its August 2016 report, "Breakfast: Retail Market Trends and Opportunities in the U.S." The study found that roughly one-quarter (24 percent) of shoppers snack in the morning instead of having a full meal. The research showed that a snacking breakfast was even more likely to take place in houses with younger adults or children.
Parents Balance Flavor and Nutrition
Children play a big role in determining what gets purchased at the grocery store, with Packaged Facts reporting that in 2015, 43 percent of households with kids spent in excess of $150 each week on groceries. That number is in comparison to 16.1 percent of households who spent more than $150 a week and do not include kids. Among the categories of food purchased for kids, cold cereal is a favorite. The same study found 14 percent of cold cereal is eaten by children, who eat about 36 percent of the cereal in their own homes.
But when Potock advises parents in her book, she tells them to avoid boxed cereals because they can be often be overly processed and loaded with sugar and salt. She adds that plenty of options can be just as easy to keep on hand and they taste great and provide better nutrition.
"On-the-go convenience can include low-sugar granola to munch on in the car, along with a boxed milk or low-sugar bottled smoothie or protein shake," Potock says. "Apple slices with cheddar cheese are an excellent option in the morning and easy to purchase pre-packaged or made at home."
Stores can give parents ideas for new foods to try with their children as well as create grab-and-go items that don't take much effort. Parents often worry about nutrition when they head to the store. Packaged Facts released a study in March that found nutrition tops parents' list when buying food for their children, with 46 percent naming it as their first priority.
Retailers may think about stocking items for easy lunch box packing, but it's important they not forget that the morning meal is also an area where parents need help.
"Our breakfast options are all about convenience. We have a lot of great products that are not only delicious but also healthy, so it's easy to get kids to eat them," says Rachel Shemirani, vice president of marketing at Barons Market in San Diego. "But convenience is king. Our favorite convenient breakfasts are oatmeal cups, peanut butter squeeze packs and gluten-free cereal bars. Our favorite easy snacks are hummus and carrots, sliced apples and peanut butter, and Greek yogurt with honey and granola."
Yogurt finds itself in a great position to serve as both a breakfast mini-meal and later-in-the-day snack, with Packaged Facts noting that 39 percent of adults eat yogurt as a snack, while 44 percent eat it for breakfast.
The flavors children enjoy might come as a surprise, retailers say from experience. While there are always picky eaters in any crowd, retailers like Deborah Hardee, owner of Oli+Vie in Atlanta, say young eaters often like flavors associated with grown-up palates.
"Many parents that shop with us are concerned about snacks as well as all meals. They are concerned with all the extra non-healthy additives in food and are looking for natural food products," she says. "Children will eat vinegars on veggies because it gives them more flavor or even put our balsamic vinegars on fruit, yogurt or ice cream."
Granola and muesli go hand-in-hand with yogurt, but some new options turn these favorite grains into easy-to-carry bars. Seven Sundays of Minneapolis is a gourmet producer that now offers Muesli Squares in three flavors, Blueberry Lemon Chia, Cocoa Pumpkin Seed and Banana Toasted Pecan. Sweetened with fruit and organic honey, the soft-baked squares also use coconut oil and sunflower seed butter. They are free of gluten, wheat, soy, GMOs and dairy, offering five to six grams of protein in each square. The company's name comes from a philosophy that each morning should be started right, more like how people behave on Sundays when the day is less rushed.
Options From the Freezer
Frozen products can be a great way to prepare a hot breakfast quickly and take it along for the ride to school. Red's Natural Foods, Franklin, Tenn., offers a gourmet version of a frozen breakfast burrito. Parents may like that Red's uses cage-free eggs and pork raised without antibiotics. The burrito contains no preservatives and includes three cheeses all made with cow's milk from animals not treated with artificial hormones. It includes 19 grams of protein per serving. The company offers a wide variety of other frozen burritos, taquitos and Mexican-style bowls, including dairy-free options, but this is the only breakfast offering they currently carry.
"Our Canadian Style Bacon Egg & Cheese Burrito is great for busy parents to have on hand in the freezer for easy weekday breakfasts that even the pickiest of eaters will love," says Mike Adair, founder and CEO of Red's Natural Foods. "Red's uses only the best, wholesome ingredients and no artificial ingredients or preservatives so kids can start the school day off right."
And retailers are finding shoppers are ready for a hot option to start the day. "The breakfast burrito from Red's has become a hit with our customers since they are always on the lookout for delicious, natural products at an affordable price. The feedback that we've received from customers has been positive since we started carrying them," says Steve Nieto, frozen category manager, for Sprouts Farmers Market, based in Phoenix with many locations in the United States.
Another gourmet producer that makes elevated breakfast burritos has now taken the frozen pancake up a notch. New Pancake Puffs and Banana Pancake Puffs from Good Food Made Simple are Belgian-style bites made with whole-grain flour, milk, butter, egg yolks, honey and fresh vanilla, and the addition of mashed banana in the flavored variety to give extra sweetness. They can be eaten alone or with syrup, and can be prepared in the microwave in about 30 seconds. A serving includes about six puffs.
While many unique and flavorful breakfast options exist, Potock, who is an expert on picky eaters, knows sometimes parents have a hard time convincing kids to eat much in the morning. A strategy she often shares with parents, and one retailers can easily help facilitate, is to prepare breakfast smoothies. A display with favorite smoothie ingredients, signage and recipes can make creating custom smoothies easier for shoppers — even if it's located in the freezer case.
"If your child insists on something to drink, a smoothie that's frozen or simply chilled can be a power-packed, easy solution. It can contain milk or juice, and adding boosters such as chia seeds, plain Greek yogurt or a seed/nut butter will start their day right even if they forgo traditional breakfast," Potock says. "Or, try a smoothie ice pop in the morning, made with your kiddo and put in the freezer the night before."
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