The rise of the breakfast time

June 15, 2017

By: Rafael Tonon

You don’t need to wait until morning to eat eggs, French toast and a bowl of cereals; food industry is eager to serve you breakfast all day long

The old adage that says that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” wasn’t created by a group of nutritionists and doctors who agreed about your health habits, but by the food industry itself, through a 1944 marketing campaign to sell more cereal. For decades we believed that we should eat more carbs in the very first meal of the day to give us the energy we needed to work.

This was a good way for us to go for the ideia of eating cereals for breakfast more widely and these ads were the key to the rise of cereal in the shelves in the following years. Since then, many things have changed, but, especially because of the new habits of our contemporary society, breakfast really became an important meal for many people (sometimes the only one) – and the food industry is keeping its eyes on it, of course.

breakfast quaker

Thanks to the end of the working hours as we know it and an increase in freelance workers, it makes less and less sense that we all need specific time to have our meals – and to split them in breakfast or lunch, for example. In the creative era, people take different time breaks to eat. And this is radically changing the way we all eat. Many restaurants and food companies are betting in this new behavior to fit its customers needs.

Chefs are creating “breakfast menus for any time” to attract more diners while the industry is producing many breakfast-related food to surf the wave.

According to a study released by NPD Group, a food and consulting research firm from the United States, only breakfast has seen a growth compared to the other two meal times (lunch and dinner) in full service restaurants in 2016. Lunch visits declined by 2 percent and, among the reasons , they mention a smaller labor force participation rate, increase in number of employees working from home, and more consumers shopping online. In fact, delivery is growing – as is breakfast  – and it is somehow killing lunch, but this is a topic for a future conversation.

NPD also predicts that breakfast consumption will grow by five percent in 2019. It is a good estimative. Legendary chef Jean George Vongerichten, who runs an empire of 35 restaurants around the world, most of them in NYC, told me last month that he is trying his best to create delicious breakfast food to conquer its costumer’s stomachs in other times other than lunch and dinner.

breakfast abcv

He wants to create much more savory recipes to the menu of his famous all-day restaurants, such as AbcV, one of his most recently opening. “When I was in Asia, I knew congee soup, dosa, and these things blew my mind. So we decided to offer something really new. For a little time, we thought nobody would come and if they did, they would ask: ‘where is my bacon?’ But it worked. We have 60 seats and serve more than 150 breakfasts a day”, he told me.

Many other chefs are focusing on breakfast meals as well. And even brands are hitting this market. Kellogg’s, the company that became famous for making us believe that cereals were a must-have in our mornings, opened its cereal bar last year in NYC. The recipes feature fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and the menu offers a “build-your-own” bowl option, through which diners can elect the ingredients that please him or her the most, such as green tea powder, almond milk and nuts. Kellogg’s NYC is a partnership with Milk Bar founder and owner Christina Tosi, a chef who changed the all-day recipes in the city – and who tries to prove that we don’t need to wait for the morning hours to taste eggs, toasts and, why not, cereal bowls.

breakfast keloggs 2

But the concept of breakfast meals is not only about having time to sit down and eat. Keeping their eyes on the customers who usually don’t have time for this, food companies are developing products to take breakfast on the go. Yet again working with our psyche and telling us that having a nutritious breakfast is one of the best (and easiest) ways to ensure your day gets off to a great start, these companies created appealing snacking products for you to have a complete breakfast even if it is in the car, on the way to work, for example.

This is part of “snackfication” of breakfast. Or, in more extreme cases, the “liquidification” of it: a trend that gathers smoothies, green juices and protein shakes.

According to these companies marketing ads, liquid breakfasts can be a great alternative to the traditional affair. They pack it with all sorts of nutritious ingredients like fruits and vegetables, fibers and protein, everything you need in one sip. They’re also a great alternative for ‘breakfast skippers’ who find a sit-down breakfast a little time consuming.

Global on-the-go breakfast market set to grow 46% by 2026, reaching US$ 1,8 billion, according to Food Market Insights. Grab-and-go products are forecast for growth as busy consumers continue to forgo the traditional sit down breakfast. The appeal of grabing a breakfast bar or nutricious shake on-the-run is certainly growing  in among people in developed and developing  countries.  


According to NPD, annual morning snack consumption has increased 17 percent over the past six years. And it can increase even more. That’s why many companies are also taking advantage of the breakfast popularity to sell the idea we can have breakfast-related food even in our day breaks, both in the morning or in the evening. If breakfast always offers a nutritive and balanced meal, why not replicate this idea in mini snacks we can have all day long, whenever we get the munchies? Even coffee is broadening into new snack territories to have an on-the-go energy experience: bars, shakes and more, all filled with the perfect amount of caffeine.

With the slump of the specific period of time to have meals (like lunch or dinner), breakfast time may be stretched to last throughout the day. Since the all-day dining is a growing trend, we will consider going to a restaurant to have a meal no matter what time it is – and if it is more like a lunch, a dinner or even a breakfast.

Rafael Tonon

+ posts by Rafael

Rafael Tonon is a journalist and food writer. He writes about food, drinks and trends in gastronomy. He contributes to many media outlets, such as Eater, Vice, Slate and more. He maintains the trend food blog What the Fork.

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