breakfast, eggs, toast, sausagePrepared Foods talks breakfast with Christopher Hansen, corporate executive chef for OSI Group LLC. OSI Group, Aurora, Ill., is a $6 billion global meat and prepared foods processor and supplier to foodservice, contract and private label channels.


PF: Let’s start with how you start your day. What’s your typical breakfast?

Hansen: My typical breakfast is yogurt, fruit (banana, apple), granola and cold-brewed coffee. I’ll either eat at home or at the office.


PF: We see growing interest in breakfast and, in particular, in protein. What do you think?

Hansen: That’s right. We also know people want healthier options without giving up their traditional breakfast items. We believe you can get both by simply using more turkey, chicken, lean pork and ham.


PF: What are some protein ingredients garnering more attention?

Hansen: I see more attention focused on nuts, legumes, beans, quinoa, soy beans, yogurt, artisanal cheeses, nut spreads, turkey sausage and lean protein. There also are more breakfast beverages, such as smoothies, that are high in protein.


PF: How do chefs influence these trends?

Hansen: We introduce them into comfort-style dishes that are fun and forgiving with new ingredients. Another way of explaining it is that chefs like to take a traditional dish and introduce a new ingredient into it, or exchange something for the traditional ingredient. So, instead of sour cream, a chef may use yogurt.


PF: How do you see consumers shifting?

Hansen: Consumer interests are ever-changing. People want to explore a new ingredient in a comfortable setting. Millennials are the perfect example. These consumers are well-informed, and they are looking for ingredients that relate to their lifestyles.


PF: Let’s look at finished breakfast foods. In your opinion, what’s been interesting or new
on the breakfast menu?

Hansen: It’s tough to say anything is truly “new,” because so much has been done before in one form or another. Foods are forever evolving. That said, I have seen more activity in breakfast-related baked goods; a move back to traditional cooking; a greater focus on coffee; and a move towards offering quality with value in mind.


PF: What’s a fun new breakfast you’ve worked on recently?

Hansen: One item has been low-sodium, lean chorizo. It has great flavor with nutritional advantages over a more traditional chorizo.


PF: OSI is a global company. What have been a few global breakfast or related ingredient trends that have caught your eye?

Hansen: I have observed more emphasis on hot meals, such as porridge or oatmeal, as well as oatmeal combinations that involve a selection of toppings. These range from bacon to yogurt, etc. There is more interest in regional and/or “village” flavors of international cuisine. I also continue to see lots of interest in Middle Eastern cooking. From an operational standpoint, there has been more activity with “pop-up” breakfast venues.


PF: What are four or five breakfast trends you see for the coming year?

 Hansen: Food-wise, I see greater emphasis on lean protein, baked goods (including specialty breads, savory muffins), “super seeds” and cold-brewed coffee. I see more cooking and eating at home -- with brunch emerging as more of key meal -- and not just for Sundays. When it comes to retail, we see consumers wanting even more transparency in food labeling. At the same time, they’re looking for “hand-crafted” products, or foods produced by small or local processors. On the foodservice side, I think breakfast restaurants also will continue to grow.