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    Breakfast Is on the Rise

    Report: Consumers looking for convenience, portability, health in morning foods.

    Breakfast has become big business.

    Although the vast majority of people still eat their first meal of the day at home, about 11 percent of breakfasts are eaten out and 6 percent are eaten on the go -- double the rate of a decade ago, The Washington Post reported.

    A report just released by the Chicago-based market research firm Mintel indicates that consumers are looking for convenience and portability in breakfast foods, as well as healthful products.The push by the federal government to increase whole grains in the diet, plus the worry over the rising number of obese children, has had an effect, the report says.

    The Post reports that newer, hand-held foods such as energy bars, sausage sandwiches and drinkable yogurt surged in sales, but so has that old-fashioned breakfast food -- hot cereal. In the cold cereal aisle, low-sugar, high-fiber cereals had the strongest sales, while the high-sugar brands saw a dip.

    "Americans want convenience at breakfast," said food trend expert Harry Balzer, vice president of the market research firm NPD Group, "but they also want a hearty meal. The Pop-Tarts and breakfast pastries are convenient, but they don't fill you up like a breakfast sandwich."

    In the past two years, breakfast sales at restaurants have continued to grow. A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association showed that breakfast growth outpaced both lunch and dinner at close to 40 percent of restaurants surveyed.

    And quick-service restaurants continue to tap into the market. Starbucks has been test-marketing breakfast sandwiches in the Washington area for six months and is now introducing them nationwide. Chains like Subway, Chick-Fil-A and Dunkin' Donuts have been expanding their morning menus this year with items such as breakfast burritos and wraps, while Burger King in March introduced the Enormous Omelet Sandwich.

    "Quick-service restaurants are refocusing on breakfast" with better-tasting products and a greater variety of ingredients, said Michael Allenson, a principal with food industry consultant Technomic Inc. in Chicago.

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