Chorizo scrambled eggs, baklava pancakes, coconut milk waffles, ancient grain pastries, and protein bowls — all displaying exotic and ethnic fillings, flavors, and colors — are examples of how more consumers are greeting the day. Ethnic and global flavor trends are there for consumers seeking more than a can of Red Bull to get going in the morning.

Exploring the world of “innovative menu options,” the 2019 Global Food Forum conference highlighted several breakfast trends doing just that. One is katsu sando, a simple combination of pork or Wagyu beef on Hokkaido milk bread. The high-end Japanese-style breakfast sandwich has been showing up in major metropolitan areas in the US, often with eye-popping prices.

Yet the item’s simplicity makes it easy to recreate the sandwich in a more egalitarian format. For example, as a limited special last spring, the Shake Shack restaurant chain offered an egg katsu sando made in partnership with Dominique Ansel Bakery, inventors of that Franco-American craze, the “cronut”.

Another growing breakfast trend is a deeper dive into cuisines from the interior of Mexico. This has been exemplified by the application of ingredients such as tajin and rustic Mexican cheeses. If you grew up in a Mexican family or neighborhood, tajin likely isn’t new to you. However, this salty-sour-spicy seasoning has experienced a menu appearance growth of more than 800% since 2015. It’s used on fruits, toast, paletas, and cocktails but is making a particularly big splash in breakfast items.

Firm, crumbly, and salty cotija cheese has experienced growth in the category as well, as has queso quesadilla, a softer cheese that melts with an extra creamy texture and is used in place of Monterey Jack or Colby in such dishes as breakfast wraps, quesadillas, and Mexican-style omelets. Other Hispanic-style cheeses also are growing in popularity for these applications.

Two good examples are queso blanco, an unaged rennetless white cheese, and queso fresco, similar to Indian paneer or, when made from goat’s milk, close to a French chèvre.

But it’s not just culture that’s driving breakfast trends. Social media also plays a big role in both creating and gauging consumer interest in new flavors and new breakfast food ingredients. One ingredient that has taken off in breakfasts is — believe it or not — jam.

From raspberry and blackberry to merlot, red gooseberry, and other exotic jams, consumer searches for the item have shot up 829%. The global breakfast trend is certainly helping to drive this. Jam is the new hot topping on Greek and Icelandic yogurt, and the classic jam-filled crépe has made a strong comeback.


Ingredient Upgrades

Another breakfast table staple that’s getting a makeover is maple syrup. Manufacturers are infusing it with a variety of new flavors, including coffee and bourbon. Recently, dozens of brands of such upmarket maple syrups have been released into the market. To infuse the maple syrup with the distinct flavor of bourbon, manufacturers start with a Grade-A golden maple syrup and age it in American oak bourbon barrels.

The charred interior of the barrel infuses the maple with smoke and char, and the taste that develops is spiced, smoky, and subtly sweet. For a coffee infusion, manufacturers take Grade-A golden maple syrup and steep it with coffee beans. This gives the syrup a robust coffee flavor and aroma.

When it comes to flavors, chefs and home cooks are also looking to spice up their mornings. McCormick Inc. is on board with the trend. The company recently released a new line of spice blends, including berbere and harissa. Berbere is used to season lamb and egg dishes in Ethiopia and harissa is a blend of spices used to make shakshuka, a traditional North African/Middle Eastern egg dish.

According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 “What’s Hot” culinary survey, “diners are looking for more ethnic-inspired items.” The survey cited shakshuka—specifically, the Tunisian/Israeli version made of eggs simmered in tomato sauce with onions, chili peppers, and a myriad of spices--as a prime example. The dish has been enjoying enormous popularity, especially on the coasts.


Six Trends Milking Sales in Breakfast Cereal Market

Fruit and Honey
PHOTO COURTESY OF: Weetabix, USA/Post Holdings, Inc. (

North America accounts for more than a third of the $35B global breakfast cereal market, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in its new report, “Global Breakfast Cereals.” With $12B in sales in 2018, North America has the largest share in the world. By 2023, Packaged Facts forecasts breakfast cereal sales will expand to $40 billion worldwide, led largely by sales growth in nations outside North America.

North America, however, also has the highest penetration of breakfast cereals in the world, with per capita consumption of both hot and ready-to-eat cereals well above all other regions. But consumptions has been falling in recent years due to the increasingly busy lifestyles of consumers, coupled with a plethora of other breakfast options. Currently only the UK and Australia have breakfast cereal consumption rates approaching those of the US and Canada.

Despite the flagging cereal consumption in North America, there’s reason for optimism as cereal brands and marketers continue to evolve to meet consumer needs and keep their products from feeling stale. Here are six trends by US cereal brands that are keeping domestic sales steady:

1. Harvesting a Health Halo: Boosting a brand’s perception as healthy by using healthier ingredients such as ancient grains, seeds, nuts, and other “superfoods,” and adding “pro-health” ingredients such as probiotics and prebiotics.

2. Creative, Novel Flavors: Offering limited-time novelty flavors, such as “maple bacon donut” and “chicken and waffles,” that inspire publicity and one-off sales. Or, offering nostalgia-inducing flavors – particularly aimed at Millennials – that recall childhood favorites but might use healthier ingredients.

3. Marketing Cereal Beyond Breakfast: Repositioning cereal as a snack or dessert instead of strictly for breakfast via marketing campaigns and in flavor profiles (e.g., Post Holdings Inc.’s “Dream Cereals” range).

4. Capitalizing on Convenience: Using single-serving packaging that might include a utensil to facilitate on-the-go consumption, as well as packaging for hot cereal that can be used in its preparation.

5. Adding Value with Add-In Ingredients: Including fruit, nuts, and other add-in ingredients consumers typically mix in at home. Sometimes these appear in a separate compartment of the package.

6. Paying Attention to Packaging: Interacting with consumers – particularly children – via smart labels and other packaging components, such as graphics and, increasingly, augmented reality to enhance the breakfast experience.

Readers interested in purchasing the full report may contact Research Specialist Frank Gaines at


Bowled Over

Breakfast bowls are still hot. But this year, expect to see breakfast bowls that add mushrooms into the mix. In 2018, Pinterest saw a 64% increase in searches for mushroom recipes.

As consumers search for meat alternatives, flavor-rich mushrooms are becoming a popular substitute. Also expect to see more breakfast bowls that are loaded with protein-rich ancient grains, such as sorghum and millet, both of which are African breakfast staples.

Grain bowls with quinoa, teff, fonio, amaranth, and other ancient grains offer endless combinations of flavors and textures. Barley, too, is seeing a renaissance, especially since revived ancient strains, such as black and purple barleys, recently became available.

Expect to see both sweet and savory breakfast bowls made with these grains. Other favorite ingredients finding their way into breakfast bowls include coconut milk, avocado, and tropical fruits such as jackfruit and açai. Also making appearances are ancient grain-based savory breakfast bowls that include mushrooms, poached eggs, and vegetable-based sausage or bacon analogs.

Speaking of meat alternatives, plant-based proteins will make inroads into other breakfast items. According to the National Restaurant Assn., “about 64% of the chefs surveyed said plant-based sausages and burgers are going to be a top food trend in 2019. The reasons: they appeal to vegetarians and vegans, are sustainable, and have good flavor and texture.” For example, Impossible Meat chorizo could soon be topping your eggs and filling burritos.


Protein Forward

With the lifting of the ban on hemp-based items, expect to see hemp in plenty of food products in 2019, including breakfast foods. Hemp protein is ramping up, and so is hemp seed oil. It’s high in essential fatty acids and cholesterol-reducing beta-sitosterol. Already used in milk alternatives and vegan protein powders, hemp protein powder contains 20 amino acids, including the nine essential amino acids that must come from the diet.

Hemp protein powder has a slightly nutty flavor, similar to that of flax seeds. It can be used in place of whey protein in all recipes at a 1 to 1 ratio. Hemp has about 15g protein per 30g serving. This is less than pea protein powder’s 27g protein per 30g serving, but hemp is less refined and might be more appealing to consumers looking for unprocessed foods. Expect to see hemp oil and protein powder in smoothie beverages, breakfast bars, and pancakes.

Given persistent consumer demand for protein as a source of all-day energy, breakfast opportunities are unlimited. A long-time favorite around the world that’s still going strong is the “incredible edible egg.” With the highest amount of bioavailable protein of any food, there’s a reason eggs have always been a breakfast staple.

“Eggs are an extremely versatile, inexpensive, high-quality protein, and so commonly found as breakfast options in most cuisines around the world,” says Elisa Maloberti, director of the American Egg Board. “As more Americans explore global breakfast options, they’re trying eggs in a number of new ways.”

While soft scrambled egg-filled breakfast tacos and burritos have maintained steady popularity for years, certain Asian egg dishes are now moving into the global breakfast spotlight. Ramen noodle soups are an example. These commonly feature eggs that are soft-boiled or steeped in soy sauce. Mixing soft-boiled eggs into dishes gives them a silky, rich broth.

Another item that has been appearing on more and more breakfast menus is bi bim bap, a Korean dish traditionally prepared in a stone bowl and topped with a fried egg. Northern Chinese street food items jianbing or bing — wheat crépes filled with fried egg and seasoned vegetables — are a delicious hand-held breakfast food.

Chefs are also spicing up the morning meal by incorporating on-trend global flavors into traditional breakfast items such as Eggs Benedict. Recently spotted versions include Pulled Pork Benedict with Chipotlé Hollandaise, Caribbean Benedict, and African Hash Benedict.

Mediterranean flavors come into play as well. The Greeks like to fry their eggs in a hot bath of olive oil, then top them with olives and feta cheese. The versatility of eggs opens the door to almost limitless creativity when using an international flavor palette.


Peanut Butter

Peanuts (and, of course, peanut butter) are also making waves when it comes to the latest global breakfast trends. “Peanuts are America’s favorite nut and are ranked as Millennials’ favorite nut as well,” says Lauren Williams of the National Peanut Board. “Americans eat 7.5-pound of peanut products each year.” But Americans aren’t the only consumers making peanuts a part of their breakfast.

Peanuts are common in many cuisines around the world. In fact, peanuts originated in South America and migrated to Mexico, Africa, and Asia before coming to the US. The legume still is a staple food in those countries. For example, in China and other eastern Asian countries, peanut congee (porridge) is popular for breakfast. In Jamaica, peanut porridge (similar to Cream of  Wheat) is a common morning meal.

In the US, 63% of peanuts are consumed in the form of peanut butter on bread, 13% in smoothies and shakes, 11% in sauces, and 9% are incorporated into a main dish. The remaining 4% are typically used in candies.

Although some manufacturers have shied away from peanuts in the past few years due to allergy concerns, peanut products such as oil and flour are attracting interest. Ed Engoron, president of Perspectives, a consulting firm that focuses on developing products and concepts for the food and hospitality industries, has been working with both peanut oil and peanut flour recently. “Peanut oil can replace vegetable fats in recipes in a 1 to 1 ratio,” he says, “and while [unrefined] expeller-pressed peanut oil will have allergen issues, processed [refined] peanut oil will not.”

Engoron uses peanut flour as a gluten-free, high-protein alternative to wheat flour in baking. “Peanut flour is a great product to work with,” he enthuses. “It’s almost a one-to-one swap for all-purpose flour in muffins, pancakes, and pita bread.” Engoron recently developed a general-purpose baking mix that replaces all-purpose flour with equal amounts of brown rice or garfava flour and peanut flour. “The use of peanut flour helps manufacturers meet demands for non-GMO, gluten-free, plant-based items.”


Yo to Go

Running out the door in the morning with a carton of yogurt and plastic spoon in hand is the modern American breakfast ritual for many. While yogurt and honey still reign supreme on the breakfast table in Greece, Greek yogurt sales are on a slight decline in the US. Icelandic yogurt is picking up some of the slack, but there’s still a gap waiting to be filled in the yogurt market.

One company has picked up some of that market share with a new high-protein yogurt line designed specifically for kids’ breakfasts, to address the growing needs (and brains) of children. The new line of yogurts contains choline and omega-3 fatty acids in the form of DHA. Both are essential nutrients for building nerve and brain cells to ensure normal brain development. 

The DHA in this yogurt comes from algae — the same source from which fish get their DHA. The ingredient is vegetarian, non-GMO, and sustainably sourced in the USA. Most important, there is scientific evidence and FDA-approved health claims for the benefits of consuming foods rich in choline and omega-3. 

Another key to yogurt’s overall success is its versatility. Yogurt is a portable food item, and it can be enjoyed as-is; mixed with fruit, cereals, or granola; or added to recipes, such as those for smoothies. Another trendy use for yogurt is as a protein-rich sour cream replacement in or on waffles and pancakes.

Another way in which manufacturers and consumers are using yogurt in breakfast formulations is overnight oats — oats soaked in a liquid medium overnight and thus ready to eat in the morning without other preparation.

In this recent breakfast trend, the consumer uses yogurt to soak the oats, turning them into a new dish that is not quite oatmeal and not quite muesli.


Most Important Meal of the Day — All Day

Today’s consumers aren’t just looking for breakfast options in the morning. According to Technomic’s recent report on breakfast trends, 39% of consumers now want restaurants to offer all-day breakfast options. Could pancakes soon replace steaks on the dinner menu? According to Mintel, breakfast habits are shifting to fit consumers’ busy schedules and include more snacking, fewer traditional breakfast foods, and even more eating on the go during the morning hours. Mintel’s predictions this year are based upon insights provided by more than 90 Mintel analysts and thought leaders, representing expertise in food and drink industries across Europe, the Asia Pacific region, and the Americas. The report also suggests that breakfast providers “stress the productivity and health benefits of breakfast to appeal to the growing number of young consumers less likely to prioritize the morning meal.”


New Classics

Even with a plethora of choices, 89% of consumers still regularly eat cereal for breakfast (and 43% eat cereal as a snack). According to the latest Mintel research, “Younger generations are leading the revolution when it comes to snacking on cereal. In fact, more than half (56%) of Millennials (aged 23-40) say they have eaten cereal as a snack at home, compared to just 32% of Baby Boomers (aged 53-71).”

Meanwhile, Mintel noted that the iGeneration (aged 18-22) is the most likely cohort “to enjoy cereal on the go.” Yet, with just 14% of cereal consumers saying they buy single-serving varieties, packaging innovation could be a key opportunity, as two in five (40%) agree that cereals should be more portable.

Aside from single-serve options, other growing cereal trends are ancient and heirloom grains, non-GMO cereals, high-protein, and gluten-free. Cereal has been a breakfast staple around the globe since the 1800s. Two hundred years later, cereal has proven itself to be the Madonna of the breakfast industry. It may evolve, but it never goes out of style.

Ancient grains are also revamping other breakfast classics. In applications from pancakes to scones, ancient grains are proving that everything eventually comes back in style. Being rich in vitamins and minerals and higher in protein than many processed mainstream grains, ancient grains and heirloom wheat varieties not only carry a strong health halo, but they add various “social ingredients” as well.

These often come with great stories of growers, unique varietals, responsible harvesting, and sustainability, all of which lend richness, quality, and a sense of craft to everyday menu staples like pancakes or muffins.

As the world of food becomes increasingly global in scope, it’s also opening the door to new fusion cuisines. It’s creating new opportunities for innovative products and sales. Cities are especially primed for complex cultural influences.

For example, cronuts (half-croissant, half-donut) have become wildly popular. Cruffins (a croissant and muffin combination) and the “waffogato” (a waffle made of ice-cream and soaked in espresso) are also taking off and could be as successful as the cronut. These gastronomic creations blend cultural influences and are set to delight foodies everywhere.

Thanks to modern technology, the world has become much smaller. With the click of a button, consumers can see photos of breakfast favorites from around the globe. They can search for exotic recipes and cooking tutorials online. Traveling and connecting has never been easier and has brought with it a hunger for new flavors and experiences.

As consumers seek to experience a variety of cultures through cuisine, they’re open to breakfast food experiences that range from the simple and comforting (such as poached eggs topped with thick Greek yogurt or pasta frittata) to the truly exotic (such as Portuguese salt cod and egg casserole or an Asian noodle stir-fry first thing in  the morning). Product makers have a lot of leeway in creating new foods to help eager eaters start their day.

Originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Prepared Foods as Wake-Up Call.