Traditional dayparts continue to blur

From Mondelēz International Foodservice.

New opportunities to build traffic and sales are emerging for foodservice operators as traditional dayparts evolve into flexible eating occasions that occur throughout the day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are blurring together, small portions are replacing full meals and entrees are shrinking into snacks. For a growing number of consumers, a snack or dessert at any time is the new normal—so much so that 49 percent of consumers report eating snacks between meals and 45 percent replace one or two daily meals with a snack, according to Technomic’s 2014 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report.

Signs of the times are the popularity of breakfast foods at lunch, dinner and in the wee hours, the increasing presence of hamburgers and other typical lunch and dinner items on morning menus and the weakening of taboos against munching between meals or eating desserts early in the day.

Understanding the new behavior and having the right items available when consumers want them—especially convenient, portable, single-serve packaged snacks and desserts—are the category management challenges that operators must meet to build sales across the dayparts.

Another new study this year by Y-Pulse and the Culinary Visions Panel shed light on the segmented snacking behavior of the millennial generation—a group much sought after by operators. The study shows that younger millennials (ages 19 to 25) are snacking more often in the past year and favor a “snack throughout the day” lifestyle rather than regular meals. Middle millennials (ages 26-30) are snacking most during the late afternoon and before dinner. Older millennials (ages 31-36) are snacking in the mid-morning and late afternoon at about the same amount as they did a year ago.

Additionally, although eating for health and wellness is a mounting trend that should be reflected in operators’ merchandise mixes, remember that consumers have hardly turned their backs on sweet indulgence. The Technomic Blog noted last fall that dessert consumption in-between meals appears to be up, and 35 percent of consumers, up from 33 percent in 2010, report eating dessert items at least weekly for a midmorning snack. 47 percent of consumers, up from 42 percent in 2010, regularly eat desserts as a midafternoon snack, and 19 percent of consumers report replacing a meal at least weekly with an item they consider to be dessert.

Thus variety, balance and convenience are key category management concerns in selecting the merchandise mix today. Try to cover the gamut of tastes and dietary needs with an assortment of snack chips, crackers and bakery items, such as sweet rolls and muffins, as well as items with greater appeal to mindful snackers, such as yogurt, fresh fruit and whole-grain products. Finally, because most people occasionally flip the switch to indulgence, candy and other sweet treats are musts as well.

However, at all times of day, time-pressed customers appreciate the convenience of single-serve packaged items such as mini chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, snack crackers and breakfast biscuits, all of which are perfect drivers of grab-and-go sales.
A trusted partner can be a big help to an operator navigating the changing tides of consumer behavior. Consider teaming up with a manufacturer that offers up-to-to-minute research, trend analysis and category management support as well as the market-leading brands of snacks and desserts that delight your customers.