‘Deskfast’ – The New Hot Meal Occasion?


The UK’s commuting culture is the origin of many habitual behaviours. Grown out of a lack of time and the convenience positioning of FMCG NPD (but definitely not to do with affordability), one of the most commonly agitable habits is eating.   Dining on the way to work makes sense for many – but once at work, what about that?  Breakfast bars, protein balls, instant porridge, breakfast drinks – all products that have emerged under the ‘Deskfast’ occasion. And they’re causing quite a stir in the office.

Deskfast, est. 2004, is becoming an established meal occasion for the younger demographic. 18% of 18-24 year olds and 23% of 25-34 year olds eat al desko (Harris Interactive, Aug 2018). The top three breakfast categories are ready-to-eats, hots, and alternatives – biscuits and cereal bars.   The later has become one of the most influential product positionings this year; cereal bar sales have grown 2.2% from 2017-2018 to £445mn (Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 8 Aug 2018). Free from companies have branched out into the Deskfast occasion, as have cereal brands and confectionery brands.

Clearly, breakfast is big, although portions have shrunk to 40g bar-sized servings.   While it may be frustrating to work among the crunches and slurps, eating at one’s desk is arguably a meal occasion shared with colleagues, and therefore, socially acceptable…?

Undoubtedly, for product developers, manufacturers, and marketers in cereal, flavoured milk, and on-the-go products Deskfast is the trend to target.   Arguably, the breakfast & snacking market is cluttered with bars, biscuits, and bakes replacing the nostalgic sweeties grabbed at the checkouts and there are alternatives to targeting the breakfast consumer: meal deals.

As Costa infiltrates the lunchtime meal deal (£3.95 for a coffee and a sandwich), should retailers be focussed on the breakfastmeal deal? Expanding this, free from category sales (gluten free, lactose free, vegan, etc) sky-rocketed this year, at £1.5bn, 37.5% on last year (Kantar Worldpanel May 2018). So, why is the free from Deskfast offering restricted to Eat Natural and Nakd bars, Deliciously Ella and Bounce protein balls?

Instead of inundating the category with packets and pouches, what about free from meal kits? If the Deskfast consumer values convenience and health then the free from category, with its undertones of health (albeit not entirelyrecognised), is a perfect consumer match.

The breakfast occasion is valued at £11.6bn (Kantar w/e 18 Apr 2018), but only a quarter of 16-34 year olds eat al desko. NPD is targeting Deskfast as if it is the biggest meal occasion out there – but is it? Yes, the food-to-go breakfast consumer attributes to the overall spending growth (with the average price of simple breakfast bars far exceeding the £1 average consumers spend on breakfast), but breakfast-to-go only represents 1.4% of allUK breakfasts (Mintel Aug 2018). What about the 75% of consumers who eat at home, or who skip breakfast entirely, the majority?

The average time prepping for breakfast is 7.4 minutes, up on last year’s 7.1 minutes, so DIY breakfasts such as meal kits serve the Deskfast occasion. (Mintel Aug 2018). (What about chopped dates and oats, among other ingredients, to make a week’s batch of breakfast bars on a Sunday night? A lot of consumers do it – so where is the convenient kit for it?). Meal kits exemplify the diversity of the breakfast category, how it can be the grounds on which the ever-popular celebrity fitness plans with their exceeding amount of preparation meet the food-to-go, convenience, and healthy breakfast trends.

Graze the magnifying glass along the rest of the breakfast category and it appears that less sugary cereals are on the rise – porridge sales are up 4.8% to £247mn – consumers are becoming more clued up about options like granola and are debunking myths of their supposed healthiness (Kantar Worldpanel 52 w/e 8 Aug 2018; Mintel Aug 2018).

Furthermore, the protein trend is infiltrating breakfast; more consumers are eating eggs for their morning meal. It could be the vast and engrossing social media endorsement of home exercise, or the free from ‘naturally healthy’, ‘unprocessed’ trend widening its reach, but the benefits of raw ingredients are motivating the breakfast consumer to make more health-conscious decisions, not entirely for the sake of convenience.

Have you got a Deskfast dish ready to be sold in the UK? Or an idea for how to make the UK consumer enjoy their breakfast in the comfort of the living room?   Contact Hamish at [email protected]

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