Breakfast on the move

While it’s true that most breakfasts are often sourced from home — 78%, according to the NPD Group — it doesn’t mean they necessarily stay at home.

“When you’re eating five times a day, you’re not sitting at a table,” Ms. Cochran said. “You might be sitting at your desk or in the car, but you’re definitely consuming portable options.”

That desire of portability is creating huge growth opportunities for products such as breakfast sandwiches. In fact, although breakfast sandwiches ranked only No. 7 on a list of top 10 breakfast foods, they were also indicated as being on a steady growth trajectory.

Sandwiches — or perhaps a better term would be handhelds to include similar items such as breakfast burritos and even tacos — are the ultimate option for people looking for portable satiety.

“When you talk about McDonald’s or Taco Bell, the ‘egg sandwich’ concept, whether it’s wrapped in a tortilla or put between an English muffin, checks the ‘protein box,’” Ms. Cochran said.

Handheld breakfast items are resonating so well with consumers that they’re looking for them even in a stationary environment, a lesson that First Watch has learned.

“Handhelds were something that we wrestled with,” Mr. Schaibly said. “We didn’t want to dabble in it or downgrade our dining experience. We didn’t want to become a hybrid of fast-casual and casual dining. We’re a full-service restaurant.”

First Watch introduced a Multi-Grain Breakfast Sandwich for a limited time.


But the Elevated Egg Sandwich, initially introduced as an L.T.O., changed the restaurant’s perception of handheld items.

“People flocked to it,” Mr. Schaibly said. “We had to sit back, look at ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘This is about our customers and what they want, not what we think they want.’”

Since then, the company has made the Elevated Egg Sandwich a permanent fixture and introduced L.T.O. handheld items such as the Multi-Grain Breakfast Sandwich, featuring a multi-grain croissant from Sweet Street Desserts, Reading, Pa.

“We usually don’t develop a menu item for a specific ingredient,” Mr. Schaibly said. “We develop a dish, and if I’m doing my job right, I can pretty much source anything. But we found this particular product and made the sandwich.”

Sweet Street, a producer of sweet goods such as cookies and brownies, also makes laminated dough products and offered this full butter croissant that is also whole grain with 12 seeds. Additionally, First Watch uses artisan breads from Cleveland-based Orlando Baking Co. that supports the foodie culture the restaurant cultivates.


Mondelez has made the breakfast biscuit an American household name with the belVita Breakfast Biscuits.


On the retail side, frozen products to heat at home and either consume in the kitchen or in the car provide the ultimate in convenience for people wanting a handheld breakfast. Products such as Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwiches and Delights (lower-calorie versions of the brand’s frozen microwavable sandwich) meet that need.

Portable breakfast items don’t have to be so grandiose, though. The on-the-go nature of products such as bars, biscuits and even sweet goods also fit nicely into what’s quickly becoming known as the “snackification” of the American diet.

Mini Danish from J. Skinner is available in 10-count packs in cheese, cinnamon or assortments.

“These products provide a convenient format and exciting new flavor combinations that can be consumed on the go,” Mr. Kyle said.

Assorted multi-packs cater to families with varied tastes who are in a hurry to get out the door and likely eating breakfast in the car.

Bars and biscuits are practically snacking hybrids. Consumers who claim to skip breakfast could throw these individually wrapped items in a purse or bag to eat later in the morning or as a mid-morning snack. Mondelez has made the breakfast biscuit an American household name with the belVita Breakfast Biscuits, and brands such as Nutri-Grain, Nature Valley and Snyder’s-Lance were right on its heels.