There’s no doubt that breakfast is a growing ‘occasion’ for convenience retailers. Lunch may be bigger, but with new products and formats to start the day being launched non-stop, breakfast sales are booming.

That’s certainly true for Scott Graham, who owns McLeish in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire.

Cereal success

The key to getting your cereal section right is to have a strong range that meets shoppers’ needs and reflects how and where breakfast is typically eaten. So says Georgia Brown, trade marketing manager at Cereal Partners UK. “Core to this should be a strong range of cereals, offering a combination of ‘healthier’ and more ‘taste focused’ options,” she says.

“The Nestlé range of breakfast cereals really has something for everyone. Cheerios is a real mums’ favourite, offering a great balance of health and taste for the family. Shredded Wheat delivers something for adult consumers looking for a simple breakfast, and then there is Shreddies, which appeals to everyone. In addition, the range includes fun and flavourful products such as Cookie Crisp, Curiously Cinnamon, Nesquik and Golden Nuggets, all of which have their loyal consumers.

She adds: “Of course, the emerging opportunity around ‘on-the go’ is also important, and particularly relevant for c-stores. In the Nestlé range we currently have our ‘Grab 2 Go’ range which provides Cheerios, Cookie Crisp and Curiously Cinnamon, in easily portable bags.”

New products always add excitement to a fixture and this year Brown says Cereal Partners will be focusing on two new lines that capitalise on emerging trends.

“Nature Valley Granola, which comes in oats & honey and oats & red berry flavours, is currently going down well with shoppers in Tesco, where it is being trialled. The product will be available to all retailers in 2015, and we believe the combination of the much- loved Nature Valley brand, a great-tasting product and the on trend ‘source of protein’ USP, will ensure success.”

Last year the company also added Nestlé Gluten Free Cornflakes and Gluten Free Honey Cornflakes.

“Breakfast is not as big as lunch yet, but more products are becoming available for breakfast on the hoof, so it’s growing. We’ve noticed sales growing, particularly in the past six months,” he says. “We’ve always been very busy, but we’ve become a destination store for hot food and that definitely includes breakfast.”

And shoppers looking for breakfast are very well catered for, with everything from hot bacon rolls to cereal pots available.

“Between 6am and 8am we have between 90 and 100 customers an hour,” says Scott. “Breakfast trade on Monday starts later - say 7am, but Wednesday to Friday it starts at 6am.”

He says bacon rolls are most popular with the tradesmen, while porridge pots appeal more to office workers.

“Particularly popular is our deal of a bacon roll, hot drink and a newspaper for £3 - it’s a 40p paper, not a more expensive broadsheet. And we’re working on a deal to link a cereal bar with a coffee.

“Cereal pots and, in particular, porridge pots are selling well. We merchandise them in the food to go area. People can add water to their porridge pots from the coffee machine, plus we’ve a big Kelloggs breakfast stand.”

Scott also stocks the Stoats porridge range, which he says sells really well, even when it’s not on promotion.

According to Stoats managing director Tony Stones, the porridge pots are made with the best Scottish oats, 100% natural ingredients and more than 10% fruit. “In the convenience store environment the colourful packaging jumps off the shelf,” he says. Stone says the best-seller is classic Scottish, followed by apple & cinnamon and cranberry & blueberry.

“As consumers are more and more pressed for time, they are searching for more convenient breakfast options that they can eat while on the go or at the desk. By choosing Stoats retailers can command a premium price (rrp £1.19) for a premium brand and product, with a solid margin that delivers the consumer a tasty breakfast solution.”

Fine food wholesaler Cotswold Fayre reports increased sales for both Stoats porridge oat bars and Stoats porridge pots.

Managing director Paul Hargreaves says bars and cereals containing oats, fruits and slow-release energy grains are popular, such as the organic Beond Bars range. “Gluten-free products continue to be popular; things like Rude Health’s gluten-free beetroot snack bar and pumpkin snack bar. The inclusion of mixed and exotic berries in these items is also fast becoming a trend, with products such as Rude Health strawberry & raspberry granola and fruity date porridge continuing to sell well.”

Don’t forget the yogurt

Greek and Greek-style yogurts have been performing extremely well over the past 12 months thanks to innovation and media investment.

One brand that’s going great guns is Total, and brand owner Fage UK is keen to highlight the fact that Total is a Greek yogurt (as opposed to a Greek-style yogurt).

“Greek yogurt is produced in Greece via a straining method to make it thick and creamy, and contains no additives or preservatives,” explains Stuart Forsyth, head of sales for Fage UK. “This means it can boast a number of health benefits such as a high-protein content. This is not always the case with Greek-style yogurt.”

Forsyth says consumers are demanding more choice and inspiration at occasions such as breakfast and natural yogurt fits the bill as it’s an “extremely versatile fridge staple which when teamed with other items such as fruit, honey and granola, can vary a person’s breakfast offering every day”.

Communicating Total’s health attributes has always been a part of the brand’s marketing strategy. “Our successful ‘Total+’ concept shows how simple it is to incorporate Total into everyday meals by adding ‘+more’ everyday ingredients. This forms the core of our healthy eating January campaign, headlined by a series of TV ads,” says Forsyth.

A sequence of four films are centred around a family going about their everyday lives and cover the four meal scenarios of breakfast, brunch, post-gym and lunch. They have been tailored to appeal to Total’s four key audience groups - fitness enthusiasts, families, foodies and those conscious of their weight - either dieting or looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

At Dean Holborn’s two stores in Surrey you’ll find the more traditional Quaker alongside a porridge pot brand called Wolfys, which he discovered at a trade show. Flavours in this range are a bit more on the exotic side and include coconut porridge with lime marmalade and spiced porridge with pear & ginger. Just as in Scott’s store, consumers can add water from the hot drinks machine.

Matt Goddard, head of impulse field sales at PepsiCo, which owns the Quaker brand, says the pots format has delivered 37% of hot cereals growth in the past three years (Nielsen) and has attracted younger, more affluent consumers to the category (Kantar).

“Breakfast on the go represents a significant sales opportunity for retailers, with 104.7 million out-of-home breakfast occasions (Kantar data). HIM Research shows that 24% of UK adults buy breakfast to go at least once a week, with shoppers picking up two to three items on average. Products that are quick and easy to prepare are among the top four motivations for breakfast choice, making it important for retailers to maximise this sales opportunity by focusing on the right range of convenient products.”

When it comes to boxes of cereals for at-home consumption, Scott says he doesn’t have a huge selection and allocates around half a metre. But he has noticed much more promotional activity. “Suppliers have been a lot more proactive on promotions, led - I think - by our wholesaler Filshill. We get ‘two for a price’ offers and most packs are pricemarked. Most of our range is Kelloggs.”

Scott has cut back on cereal bars. “We used to carry loads, but now we’ve just one metre. We could do with more help on merchandising items such as cereal bars because there are hundreds of them out there, but it’s difficult to find out what sells best so we can make sure we’re carrying them. There are plenty of planograms for soups, but none for cereal bars.”

Where cereal bar sales may have dwindled, breakfast biscuit sales are on the up: “Belvita and Weetabix biscuits are selling well - I think that’s because there’s a perception that they’re healthier than other biscuits,” says Scott.

For Dean, much of the breakfast boom is coming from pastries. “Lots of mums come in after they’ve dropped the kids off at school to grab a croissant - particularly in our Nutfield store, which is opposite a primary school.”

Protein - the next big thing?

Amy Price, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, believes that protein-rich breakfast foods could benefit from highlighting their protein content more effectively on packs.

“While no functional claims relating to protein have been approved by EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), more than three in five (63%) of consumers say that protein helps to keep you fuller for longer, suggesting scope for foods such as unflavoured porridge or strained yogurt to benefit from more effectively highlighting how they are a ‘source of protein’ on-pack,” she explains.

Cereal Partners is already on the case. Its new Nature Valley granola, currently being tested in Tesco stores, with a full trade rollout due this year, has the word ‘Protein’ boldly emblazoned on the front of packs.

He describes the food-to-go offer there as ‘embarrassing’ when he took the store over nine years ago, but he soon turned it around. “We developed it on the basis that it would give us a point of difference and we wanted to do it before our competition did it. Then we thought, we must get it in our Redhill store, too.”

Both stores open at 6am, but there are staff in way before then to sort the newspapers. “They get the papers in, then put some pastries in the oven to get them going. Of course, it would be lovely to have someone dedicated to doing the hot food, but it’s easy for them to do it in between the other jobs.”

Starting early is important, says Dean: “People soon get to know that you’re open early and that you’ll have hot food for breakfast,” he says.

Country Choice senior marketing manager Rebecca Whitmore agrees. “If a store can capture trade during the early morning it is likely that it will quickly establish a reputation locally and this will lead to it becoming a destination at other times during the course of the day.”

She suggests retailers start with a breakfast programme that includes something for everyone - a cooked breakfast, breakfast baps, sausage rolls and bacon & cheese turnovers for male consumers, and a selection of Viennoiserie such as croissants and Danishes which are more popular with female customers. Wherever possible, offer good quality coffee as well, and tie the two together with an attractive breakfast meal deal proposition.”

Sivakumar Pandian, manager of Nisa at Virginia Quay in East London, says that trading opposite a tube station means he gets a lot of commuters coming in to grab coffee and a pastry to consume on their way to work. “Since bringing in the Cuisine de France concept we have seen increased demand for our breakfast items, with the croissant proving to be a best-seller. The fact that the products are baked in-store also gives added appeal.”

Starting early

If you want to forge closer links with your local school, then helping them run a breakfast club could be the answer.

Dennis Williams, who runs Broadway Convenience Store with wife Linda in Edinburgh, definitely thinks so.

“We get an email order from one school on a Friday and we deliver the products first thing on a Monday,” he says. “The order is typically for brown and white bread, fresh juice, cereals and milk.”

Dennis says there’s research out there that states 50-60% of children don’t have breakfast before they go to school, so he thinks breakfast clubs are a great idea. “It’s good that schools are encouraging kids to come in early and have some breakfast before they start their lessons.”

He now serves two schools: Pentland and Oxgangs. “We’d been working with one school and then the headmistress moved on and asked us to supply her new school,” he explains.

Both schools have accounts with the store; Dennis doesn’t charge for delivery as he says the clubs are a good partnership with the school.

“One of the headteachers made a valid point in that she’d rather use our time than the teachers in supplying the club. I don’t mind as I believe these clubs are a good idea. They try to promote healthy eating, plus they contribute towards the local economy. And you build up a relationship with the children who are your next generation of customers.”

Mariam French, head of marketing at Aryzta Food Solution (owner of Cuisine de France), reckons the importance of on-the-go pastry options mustn’t be overlooked. “Consumer research in the US has shown that 35% of people who eat breakfast on the move would like the option to purchase breakfast items at different times throughout the day, including during lunch, dinner and late at night - a trend that we expect will grow in the UK.”

Dean says if you’re offering hot food, you have to be prep ared for some waste. “I think Country Choice say you should be running at about 7% waste otherwise you could be missing out on sales due to lack of availability. After all, if there’s not much on show it’s not appealing enough for anyone to buy. It’s got to look good, then you sell more. It’s all about how you manage it.”

For Scott, breakfast trade is a lot less brisk at the weekends because of fewer workmen around, but for Dean weekends are big for cooked breakfasts. “It’s critical that we have everything customers need for a cooked breakfast: the eggs, bacon, and mushrooms.”

When C-Store speaks to Dean, it’s a Monday morning and he says he can see his stock of bacon is severely depleted at his Redhill store. He says it’s important to have a range of bacon and sausages - from value lines to more premium products to suit all pockets. “The same with bread; you need the bog standard, but you also need decent bread. We carry Country Choice’s organic loaf plus we get deliveries from an artisan baker.”

He adds that sales of croissants spike at the weekend, too. “You see a lot of dads coming in with their children, buying newspapers and croissants for breakfast.”

Dean has nothing but praise for his croissant supplier Country Choice: “They are very, very helpful. They offer a superb service where you can phone up on Sunday morning, between 10am and 1pm, and order stuff for Monday. Normally you are ordering Friday for Monday, but if you’ve had a particularly busy weekend you can ring on a Sunday and top up your order, otherwise you’d have to wait until Tuesday. They’re only open a few hours, but it’s great that they’re there.”

While busy consumers go for porridge pots on weekdays, Hargreaves says there appears to be an increase in porridge making at the weekends, with families looking to indulge. “This trend has encouraged the increase in sales of Stoats porridge oat blends and Rude Health’s 5grain 5seed porridge. Pancake and waffle making is also popular with families as a weekend treat with Stonewall Kitchen’s farmhouse pancake & waffle mix becoming a best-seller in the convenience store sector.

“Pancakes are never served alone and so Stonewall maple syrup and blueberry syrup and Sweet Freedom choc shot are must-stock items,” he adds.

Tops for breakfast

New Belvita Breakfast Tops are crispy biscuits made with either a chocolate or fruit topping. The two varieties - choco hazelnut and strawberry - come in 250g packs, rrp £2.79. The launch is being supported by a £2m marketing spend including TV.

Del Monte adds new carton

Refresco Gerber has extended Del Monte’s low-sugar, low-calorie Naturally Light range with a 1ltr orange flavour in a re-sealable carton. Meanwhile, Just Juice has been relaunched in new packaging and pricemarks. The pricemark on the 1ltr packs is now £1.29, or two for £2.

Breakfast week is coming

January 25-31 is Breakfast Week 2015. Retailers can log on to to find recipes as well as ideas on engaging with local schools.

Jordans reveals its lighter side

Jordans Cereals has introduced new Jordans Lighter Granola (rrp £3.69). Available in two variants - raspberry & apple and strawberry & blueberry - the granola boasts 30% less fat than standard granolas on the market.

Get in on the latest trend in eating

Nature Valley cereal bars has introduced a range of protein bars designed to fill the gap for a mainstream cereal bar range with the benefit of protein. The company says Nature Valley Protein contains 15% (8g) of daily protein needs and 30% less sugar than average adult cereal bars. They come in peanut & chocolate and peanut, pumpkin & sunflower seeds with an rrp of £2.89 (69p singles).