As commuting time across Europe creeps upwards, breakfast on the move is becoming increasingly common and forecourt retailers are in a prime position to profit. Concepts such as the Cereality café chain in the US, coupled with the adoption of stock rotation techniques to cater for different mealtimes, suggest the time is right for forecourt retailers to innovate with breakfast provision.

In the US, consumers have been long accustomed to breakfasting on the move. However, Datamonitor research has shown that the trend is spreading across much of Europe also. By 2007 European adults will be taking 14.5 fewer breakfasts at home than they did in 2002 and 6.4 more on-the-move breakfasts will be consumed annually per adult in 2007 than in 2002.

At the new Cereality cereal bar, pyjama-wearing assistants sell 30 different types of cereal in bowls resembling Chinese takeaway containers. While this might be slightly excessive for the average European consumer, such ventures are evidence that, although customers will eat a sandwich at breakfast and then one at lunch, they prefer diversity. Although cereal is an obvious choice for retailers offering breakfast solutions, its scarcity as an on the go offering testifies to the fact that breakfast was formerly a meal confined to the domestic realm.

Furthermore, space restrictions make the provision of such diverse offerings a challenge for the average forecourt shop. Leading US retailer 7-Eleven has tried to overcome this by pioneering the notion of stock rotation; an approach to inventory management which involves a carousel of breakfast, lunch and dinner items occupying the same shelf space but at different times of the day. Although currently applied only to hot food, this move is further evidence of the consumer demand for greater variation and the inherent association between time and taste.

The key issue for forecourt retailers is that consumers are no longer seeking snacks or impulse purchases, but more substantial and varied breakfast, lunch or dinner options. A versatile and diverse product range catering for main meal occasions will be a welcomed improvement to the forecourt store. With tough competition and limitations of size, forecourt retailers must evaluate the viability of strategies such as stock rotation to take full advantage of a trend that already favours the forecourt format.

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