While international brand presence across China’s food sector is strong, breakfast choices remain dominated by local foods due to the familiarity of tastes, according to Heng Hong, senior research analyst at research firm Mintel.
Breakfast is the part of the day when the preference for local flavours is more pronounced, Hong told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“In the morning, people want a sure bet and something that they know that they will enjoy. It is the one time, where consumers are more likely to order on autopilot and based on routine,” he said.
Local items are sought after, with porridge a popular choice, he added.
James Roy, senior analyst at China Market Research (CMR) previously told this publication that Chinese consumers have “very entrenched views and habits” when it comes to the morning meal.
The choice tends to be hot meals, such as porridge or eggs, Roy detailed.
Cereals for example won’t float
In May this year China’s Bright Food snapped up iconic cereal brand Weetabix for US$1.95bn with plans to take the brand to China. But analysts were quick to sink the notion that cereals would be a success in the country.
While China’s cereal market is estimated to be worth US$198.4m, according to Euromonitor, growth and volume sales are set to be depreciative over the next five years.
Western cereals will likely flop in China, Sam Mulligan, director of Data Driven Marketing Asia (DDMA) said.
“It’s not a format anywhere near their diet – consumers are still very traditional,” Mulligan said.
Ripe early morning opportunities
Hong identified opportunities in localised products in terms of flavour but also the ready-to-eat (RTE) segment in light of the economic boom with consumers leading an increasingly hectic lifestyle.
It is becoming quite difficult for consumers to prepare breakfast at home, he said, and thus opportunities for RTE breakfast products have arisen.
Mintel data suggests that 21% or 1 in 5 urban Chinese consumers eat at fast food outlets between 4am and 11am. It is the “under-penetrated daypart for foreign fast food outlets,” it said.
“Some will eat quick frozen convenience food like frozen dumpling or bread with milk. Out of home breakfast choices are aplenty and this is where foreign fast food is competing hard with Chinese food sold by street vendors, small eateries as well as Chinese fast food like Yonghe King,” he said.
Western offerings that have proved popular thus far include sandwiches, hotdogs and coffee. “Coffee is a strong crowd puller,” he said, and specialty coffees tend to attract increasingly sophisticated drinkers who are starting a rushed day.