Feeding around-the-clock eaters

chef pierre muffins

From Chef Pierre.

Not so long ago, meals represented a pause in the day and an opportunity for people to stop and relax. But for many people, those days are long gone.

Today’s fast-paced schedule is literally around the clock, and consumers’ eating habits have adapted to this new 24/7 lifestyle. For busy people on the go—students studying late, healthcare workers on the night shift or employees pulling together a last minute presentation—being able to eat when they’re hungry, regardless of time of day, is more important than ever.

“Mealtimes are being blurred and busier lifestyles no longer fit into three meals where you sit down,” says Aimee Harvey, managing editor, global content for Technomic.

Convenience and ease

Recent data from Technomic indicates that 51 percent of consumers surveyed say they snack twice a day with mid-afternoon (70 percent) and late night (40 percent) as the most popular times of day.

“I definitely think it’s about work and lifestyle integration,” Harvey says. “It’s about trying to roll meal times and snack times into life.”

Consumers’ definition of “snack” has evolved as well. Though some will still grab a candy bar or a bag of chips, people want food that is fresh, healthy, tastes good and they can eat quickly.

Beverages have found their way into the snack category. Coffee drinks, smoothies, juices and even flavored water are now considered snacks. “What consumers define as snacks is changing,” says Harvey.

What do all of these items have in common? They’re portable. “Operators have to keep healthy in mind but also food you can grab and go,” says Harvey. “Prepackaged snacks that have to be fresh and healthy—that’s the challenge,” she adds.

Flexibility is key—having multiple venues that integrate different food options and offer extended services hours are essential to meeting customer demand.

Satisfaction any time

Food companies, as well as operators, are adjusting accordingly. Chef Pierre has adapted their breakfast bakery items (formerly branded as Sara Lee) to meet the multi-faceted needs of the modern consumer. Of note are the newly crafted, artisanal-style muffins, free of artificial additives, sweeteners and hydrogenated oils, but loaded with wholesome goodness such as California walnuts, Michigan blueberries and hand-sprinkled butter streusel.

“Consumers crave traditional breakfast foods outside of morning hours and muffins scream, ‘hearty’,” says Jennifer L. William, senior marketing category manager-breakfast bakery, for Tyson Foodservice. “They’ll want to have a muffin in the afternoon or as a midnight snack because they’re hungry and on the go,” she says.

There’s a homemade appeal to Chef Pierre’s muffins that provides consumers a sense of comfort and confidence in what they’re eating, says William. “We learned that consumers were specifically driven by what the muffin looks like—the nuts, and fruit and toppings—and when you taste them, you get exactly what you see. They’re moist and full of premium goodness,” she adds.

And consumers are craving them: The newly crafted muffins were tested nationwide in eight different markets, and they were preferred over the leading competitor. The muffins are available in five gourmet flavors: blueberry, double chocolate chunk, banana nut, bran and cheese streusel (bulk only).

Appearance counts

Pressed for time, all-day eaters are particular about how food is packaged and presented; they want to see the ingredients listed and know where the food is sourced.

Whether it’s see-through windows or color-coded labels that indicate the food is vegetarian or locally produced, operators should take note that high quality packaging and food with a story, as well as options that are focused on health and wellness, says Harvey, will only help sales and drive traffic.

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