The Evolution of the American Breakfast

December 15, 2006

2 Min Read
The Evolution of the American Breakfast

While Norman Rockwell might have pictured the typical American family sitting down to a hardy, calorie-laden breakfast filled with an array of foods and beverages, that stereotype no longer holds true, according to a new study by The NPD Group, Inc., Port Washington, NY, called Eating Patterns in America.

In fact, More than half of our breakfast meals consist of just one or two items, said Dori Hickey, senior manager of product management, The NPD Group, When we look at this by week part, we don't see a marked difference between weekdays and weekends. And over time, the number of items included in breakfast meals has fallen, from 2.46 in 1985 to 2.17 today.

Light is the watchword: Consumers considered only 38% of their breakfast meals a full or complete meal; 45% of breakfasts were described as a small or mini meal and 5% as a snack. Beverage-only breakfasts occurred 11% of the time.

The composition is changing, too. In-home consumption of toast and coffee is downtoast has dropped from 26% of in-home breakfast meals in 1985 to 13% in 2006, and coffee, which was seen at 44% of in-home breakfast meals in 1985, is only at 32% in 2006. Items showing growth include convenience products like granola or cereal bars (from less than 1% in 1985; but 2% in 2006), yogurt (from less than 1% in 1985 to 2% in 2006), and carbonated soft drinks (from 1% in 1985 to 3% in 2006), plus eggs (from 10% of in-home breakfast meals in 1996 to 12% in 2006).

The survey found that Americans top choices for breakfast at home include:

  • Coffee 32%;

  • Cold cereal 32%;

  • Fruit Juice 26%;

  • Milk 16%;

  • Bread 15%;

  • Fruit 13%;

  • Eggs and omelets 12%;

  • Hot cereal 9%;

  • Bacon 4%;

  • Hot tea 4%.

The study concludes that, in addition to lighter meals, convenience continues to be a driving factor. However, taste preferences and familiarity are even more important than convenience, with 48% choosing to eat or drink what they did because the items were their favorites or what they liked. Plus, 48% said it was part of their morning routine.

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