February 2012/Prepared Foods -- When it comes to developing new breakfast foods, ethnic may be a smart way to go. In its 2011 “Breakfast Consumer Trend Report,” Technomic found that many consumers—especially those belonging to the largest minority groups—would like to see more ethnic offerings at breakfast. Technomic research shows overall consumer interest in ethnic breakfast items grew between 2009-2011. Furthermore, Hispanics (the nation’s largest minority group) show the greatest interest in such offerings.  

In 2009, just 27% of Hispanics agreed with the statement, “I would like to see more ethnic items and flavors offered at breakfast.” By 2011, that percentage jumped to 44%—an increase of 63%. Close behind Hispanics, in terms of interest, are Asian consumers (42%), and 32% of African American consumers also agreed with the statement. (In comparison, only 17% of Caucasian consumers want more ethnically inspired breakfast fare.)

This indicates opportunities abound for manufacturers and operators to stay ahead of the curve by rolling out ethnically inspired breakfast items. That holds true particularly for those interested in capturing the business of consumers who identify with the major ethnic groups.

Different strategies to meet this demand exist. One avenue is to take existing American-style products and put ethnic twists on them. Breakfast sandwiches might be especially conducive to this, as they can easily be altered via a single modification. For example, ethnic spices like curry powder; sauces such as chimichurri; and alternative protein preparations, like Korean-style barbecue pork, could be added to standard breakfast sandwiches.
Another avenue would be to introduce altogether new breakfast dishes and products that feature ethnic influences. Along this vein, Mexican-inspired burritos have proven popular. The Cheesecake Factory and Kahunaville Island Restaurant & Party Bar both introduced new Mexican-style breakfast burritos last fall.

The Cheesecake Factory’s Sunrise Fiesta Burrito features chicken chorizo, salsa, cilantro and avocado cream sauce, while Kahunaville’s Breakfast Burrito is topped with salsa roja and served with guacamole. Beyond Mexican, Pan-Asian-inspired breakfast items are starting to proliferate. Wow Bao, a Chicago-based chain from Lettuce Entertain You, specializes in Chinese-style, meat-filled buns. The concept serves Breakfast Bao in varieties such as egg, bacon and Cheddar; and egg and spicy sausage. 

For either approach, using Mexican flavors and ingredients to update or craft new breakfast items is a safe place to start. A search of Technomic’s trend-tracking resource, MenuMonitor, reveals breakfast burritos, tacos, huevos rancheros and chilaquiles all enjoy a growing presence on menus. Menu innovators and product developers might consider starting by adding one or two Mexican breakfast items, since these items are already popular and have achieved widespread acceptance with American consumers. Once they have successfully integrated such items, they might consider branching out and tackling other ethnic breakfast fare.