We have all heard breakfast is the most important meal, but nearly one in five children and adults skips breakfast, while others eat a breakfast of poor nutritional quality. Therefore, many people miss the chance to help power their day with a healthy start. This alone is an opportunity to grow dairy sales.

Understanding consumer needs will help the dairy industry innovate. Here are the top four benefits sought by health-conscious consumers:

Energy/sustained energy. The majority of adults say that when deciding which foods or beverages to choose for a healthy breakfast, energy is most important. Energy is among the fastest-growing claims. Consumers have many different definitions for energy, with 49% of people believing that protein provides increased energy levels. However, many do not associate dairy foods with protein or its benefits. Dairy foods provide a natural source of many nutrients, including high-quality protein. Help consumers recognize these benefits.

Heart health. Consumers look to foods with natural benefits to help protect their heart. Pairing low-fat and fat-free dairy foods with nutrient-rich foods recognized for their heart-healthy benefits (such as whole grain oats) is one area for innovation. Research also indicates dairy may have heart-health benefits. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans concluded there is moderate evidence indicating that the intake of milk and milk products is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and with lower blood pressure in adults.

Feeling full longer. Consumers say that a feeling of fullness reduces their cravings for snacks, helps them eat less and makes them feel more satisfied and content. Higher-protein diets have been shown to increase satiety (that is, a feeling of fullness after a meal). Calorie-for-calorie, consuming more protein can increase the feeling of fullness, more than carbohydrates or fat. With fiber being the top nutrient consumers think keeps them feeling full longer, try innovating with breakfast items that combine dairy foods or ingredients, a source of protein, and a fiber-containing food such as whole grains or fruit.

Healthy weight. Getting more protein throughout the day to build a diet higher in protein may help with weight management. The lowest amount of protein is consumed at breakfast compared to lunch and dinner, underscoring the value of getting more dairy at breakfast. In addition, research indicates consuming higher protein and more dairy foods when on a calorie-restricted diet helps to maintain muscle and bone.

Dairy is part of the solution

Dairy foods can meet consumers’ desire for great taste and perceived benefits such as energy, weight management and satiety. Dare to be different. Use different flavors and ingredients within the breakfast category to offer sweet and savory combinations, while still incorporating the “traditional” feel and taste of breakfast. Try leveraging color, shape and size. Here are a few examples:

  • Eating breakfast may help children do better in school by improving memory and attention, test grades, school attendance and mood. The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy brought together a diverse group of experts to rethink and reposition dairy as a healthful yet exciting breakfast solution for kids through a “breakfast lab.” More than 20 unique concepts were developed and recipe prototypes were created with input from chefs and children.
  • Consider “stealing” from other meal occasions, like the breakfast lab did. Deconstructing the waffle turned it into a portable option (sticks or “fries”) that can be dunked into flavored yogurt.
  • McDonald’s offers better-for-you items like the Egg White Delight McMuffin with white Cheddar cheese and Canadian bacon on a whole grain English muffin, a Fruit ‘N Yogurt parfait and McCafé lattes that can be made with fat-free milk.

Portable packaging, messaging

Innovate with unique consumer-friendly packaging and tout the nutritional benefits of your products on the label. Think about portable and easy-to-prepare and eat options like pouches, pre-made smoothies, breakfast burritos, savory muffins or casserole squares.

Develop messages or imagery to convey the benefits that consumers desire. Quaker has a “make it with milk” oatmeal promotion supported by Dairy Management Inc. and MilkPEP. The promotion includes on-pack milk imagery, retail marketing and online resources. Packages hit several cues, such as boosting protein, heart health, good energy and improving overall nutrition. Swapping water for milk in oatmeal preparation is a reasonable behavior change with many health benefits.

 The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy can help dairy processors. Check out the resources on usdairy.com.