Breakfast and beyond

Shaking up the category goes beyond new flavors and varieties. As consumers reinvent breakfast and traditionally breakfast-only foods, the bagel can find new eating occasions and ways to be consumed. Today, bagels are getting eaten but not necessarily at the start of the day.

“All-day consumption has changed both the volume and variety of bagels consumed,” Ms. Krenner said. This includes new topping ideas and bagels as a sandwich carrier.
Sixty-five per cent of survey respondents said they consume bagels as appetizers.

Data from Mintel’s Bread and Bread Products report confirmed bagels are a bread category that sees multiple uses. Survey respondents reported eating bagels as a part of an everyday sandwich (53%) and as a special-meal sandwich (59%). Bagels also became snacks between meals (66%) and appetizers (65%). Those who consumed bagels as a snack or appetizer were also likely to buy the same amount or more bagels in the past six months, the report stated. These eating occasions can guide new product development and open new opportunities for producers to reach beyond traditional breakfast dayparts.

Thomas’ Bagels has seen this happen organically among consumers.

“Whenever we talk to consumers, I’m really surprised — pleasantly surprised — at how often bagels are consumed outside of breakfast,” Mr. Swain said. “The primary usage for us, for sure, is in the morning, but we get a lot of people using our Bagel Thins for sandwiches during midday. Our mini bagels are a great snack for kids.”

The brand actively touts new snack and meal ideas on social media.

“One of the best posts we had on Facebook was around making garlic bread out of mini bagels,” Mr. Swain shared. “That’s the kind of thing that consumers aren’t always thinking about, and we’re trying as hard as we can to come up with new and interesting recipes, usage ideas, all those good things, wherever possible.”

One of Thomas' most popular Facebook posts suggested consumers could make garlic bread out of its mini bagels.

Consumers have even joined in, sharing their own creative bagel innovations on the brand’s Facebook page.

“I am continually surprised at the unique and fun ways that people are using our products,” Mr. Swain said.

Don’t count breakfast out, though. It still is the most obvious time to eat a bagel, and the grab-and-go breakfast can be an opportunity for bagels as well. It’s a food that is easily portable and eaten at a desk, or a new iteration that is more snack-style may be ready-to-eat on the road.

“You have every kind of concoction under the sun these days,” Mr. Chizick said. “It’s a challenge and an opportunity.”