Wake up to breakfast drinks: Where innovation could take the category next

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Chia, quinoa & other nutritional ingredients are on-trend in breakfast drinks. Pic:iStock/marilyna
Chia, quinoa & other nutritional ingredients are on-trend in breakfast drinks. Pic:iStock/marilyna

Related tags Nutrition Us Uk functional beverage beverage

Australia is the largest market for breakfast drinks, with a current retail value of around A$200m (USD $153m). But when it comes to innovation, the UK can give the Aussies a run for their money, says Zenith International, while the US market also shows promise. 

Liquid breakfasts scarcely existed 20 years ago. Today, consumers recognize the importance of breakfast and are looking for products that save time while providing the right balance of nutrients.

On-the-go lifestyles, health awareness, and consumers’ desire for convenience are driving growth in the category, according to the F&B consultancy, which has released its 2016 Global Breakfast Drinks report. 

Cereal + milk: in beverage form

For Zenith, breakfast drinks are defined as any products that are marketed as ‘formulated supplementary food’ and aim to replace a traditional meal (usually breakfast) with a liquid on-the-go option. This represents an optimum combination of cereals and milk, marketed as offering ‘the nutrition of a bowl of cereal and milk’.

The category is defined using the following criteria: shelf stable, liquid, dairy-based, high in protein and fiber, containing added minerals and vitamins, and coming in a portable, on-the-go format. Most breakfast drinks contain cereals, the exception being in the US market.

“Breakfast drinks are positioned as a healthy, fast and convenient option for breakfast,” ​Juliette de Nettancourt, consultant, Zenith International, told this publication. 

“They target busy people who are likely to skip breakfast, but are willing to have a healthy lifestyle.

“The trend is to offer products with nutritious ingredients, such as on-trend grains like chia or quinoa.

“Products are also strongly linked to health trends and we see some launches of new products which are low in sugar, gluten free, or free from any type of artificial ingredients.”

Sanitarium initiated the trend in Australia with the launch of Up&Go in 1998; a brand that has since been extended to New Zealand and the UK. The Australian market has had time to mature and is the largest market for breakfast drinks.

But today the UK market is growing rapidly – with sales currently totalling £15m ($19m).

“The Australian market is dominated by the brand Up&Go which mainly drives innovations,” ​said de Nettancourt. “But I believe the UK market is now more innovative than Australia, as competition pushes companies to target consumers more specifically with innovative products.

“For instance, some brands have reformulated their drinks so they will have less sugar intakes, or develop products that are meant to provide a stronger and longer satiety feeling.”

Breakfast – and beyond

As the name would suggest, breakfast drinks are often positioned around one consumption occasion.

“This is a differentiation advantage, marketing is very clear and it limits competition with other snacks or drinks,” ​said de Nettancourt. “However, it is important to note that despite being targeted as an occasional product, many consumers would have breakfast drinks at any time of the day as a way to get energy.”

This reach beyond breakfast is seen in the US, where the market is shaping itself more towards milk shakes, breakfast bars and food supplements.

“The success of supplementary drinks and shakes in the US is linked to health trends and busy lifestyles,” ​said de Nettancourt. “Not many shakes are targeted for breakfast in a similar way to breakfast drinks in Australia and the UK. However, consumers are likely to have them at any time of the day, including breakfast.

“Given the market nature and the fact that people are already replacing their breakfast meal with a drink, it appears that there is an opportunity for breakfast drinks to develop in the US.

“Similar to the UK market, breakfast drinks will have to be more innovative than supplementary shakes by offering a healthy breakfast option with original and trendy ingredients.”

zenith infographic breakfast 2

Challenges for the sector

De Nettancourt says the biggest challenge for breakfast drinks will be to offer a healthy, nutritious drink with low sugars, without compromising on taste.

“It is also important to highlight that consumers are likely to prefer fresh drinks over shelf stable, aseptically packed breakfast drinks.

“Furthermore the opaque packaging (which helps with branding) hides the consistency of the drink, which can be found less appealing, and a negative image can be generated if a consumer pours the drink into a glass.”

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