Canadian Vending

Features Consumer Behaviour Trends
From the Editor: Fall 2015

The business of breakfast

October 5, 2015
By Colleen Cross


People are waking up to the idea they shouldn’t skip breakfast.

The recent move by fast-food giant McDonald’s to offer breakfast items all day at its U.S. restaurants is a good indication the trend has taken hold. It also is widely believed to be, at least in part, a reaction to arch-competitor Tim Hortons’ positioning as a round-the-clock outlet.

The chain had been testing the strategy in various markets since March and decided to go country-wide on Oct. 6.  

It’s a bold move by McDonald’s, which recently saw its first declining sales. The strategy serves to heighten the profile of breakfast as a key meal, a fact confirmed by sales.


Breakfast sales are increasing in spite of the four per cent drop in ready-to-eat cereal dollar sales and unit sales, market research firm IRI reported late last year.

Which products are selling? Breakfast is not just about cereal and eggs anymore, as Michelle Brisebois explains in our cover story (see “Snack time” on page 12).  

Sales of breakfast sandwiches have been steadily growing over the past few years. Canadian manufacturer Premium Brands Holdings’ sales of grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches and wraps for Starbucks have had a big lift in earnings.  

Breakfast bar sales are flat in dollar sales and down slightly in volume sales, but nutritional bars grew in volume sales by 8.7 per cent.

Protein-rich products are popular for breakfast, and demand for Greek yogurts and protein bars is growing, says Frank Jiang, country research analyst at Euromonitor International, in our cover story.

Coffee, the drink so imbedded in our breakfast routines, is going strong, although tastes seem to be shifting from traditional drip brewed coffee to specialty coffees.

Along with the branching out of breakfast, Brisebois explores the phenomenon among millennials known as grazing – eating snacks instead of meals and eating them at all times of the day.  

It seems to me this habit would extend to breakfast, when customers of all ages may be looking for something substantial such as nutrition and protein bars to hold them over until lunch. And it bodes well for the vending industry, whose stock in trade is being there when the urge and need arises.  

But what should the vending industry do with this information?

Stocking products with widely touted nutrients like protein makes sense any time of the day because we don’t know when customers will access vending machines. That’s a great place to start. Nods to protein could include nuts, dried and sealed meat snacks, Greek yogurt and high-protein shakes and bars.

Keeping the popularity of breakfast in mind may suggest new ideas for machine locations, and keeping the popularity of protein in mind may suggest locations to target with more protein-rich items.

Micro markets may provide the best of both worlds – health and convenience – as typically they are restocked more often. The benefits of eating a substantial breakfast are well backed by some recent health studies, which have shown that consumption of about half of the daily 1,400 calories at breakfast can lead to weight loss among teens and women. Sharing this kind of information with clients during sales calls and with customers through signage seems a good way to point them in the right direction.

But while protein is understood to be an essential nutrient, not every expert agrees diets should be protein-heavy. Knowing this, it seems wise to treat the recent mania for protein as just one of many shifting nutritional trends. And taking the trend with a small grain of salt – pun intended – brings us to the age-old idea of moderation, a.k.a. hedging your bets by offering a thoughtful selection of the best-selling standbys and nutritious products.

In a tough market, the middle ground can be a good place to be to catch the grazers, the breakfast club and everyone else on the run.

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