LOS ANGELES — Breakfast is typically considered the most important meal of the day, but over half of consumers aren’t eating it consistently, and 12% rarely eat it at all, according to a national consumer poll by Instantly. For those who rarely eat breakfast, the second most cited reason for skipping the meal is not having enough time, next to lack of appetite.

When strapped for time in the mornings, 21% of the 10,000 U.S. consumers polled said they will skip breakfast altogether, while 43% will grab something on the go. When eating in transit, 63% will grab something from home, which means retail food manufacturers have a big opportunity to create convenient breakfast options for these busy consumers.

Many companies already have started to cater to the convenience trend. Post Holdings, Inc. launched Honey Bunches of Oats Breakfast Biscuits, which come in packages of four and may be dipped in coffee in the car or spread with peanut butter before dashing out the door. The Kellogg Co. also introduced a handy option with its line of Eggo Breakfast Sandwiches designed to be eaten on the go. Featuring eggs, melted cheese and sausage or bacon between waffle-style bread slices, these sandwiches only require one hand for eating.

But not all consumers in a rush will grab their breakfast from home. According to the study, 45% will visit a drive-thru restaurant. When choosing a drive-thru, 44% of consumers picked McDonald’s as their “go-to,” followed by Burger King at 5% and Taco Bell and Jack in the Box each earning 4% of consumers’ votes.

McDonald’s has been in the breakfast game for a while, but Taco Bell recently entered the breakfast market to compete with the food service giant, offering easy on-the-go morning sustenance. The chain unveiled several handhelds for busy drive-thru goers: the Biscuit Taco, which features breakfast meats, eggs and cheese inside a biscuit molded into the shape of a taco; the AM Crunchwrap, which offers a hash brown, meat, cheese, and eggs in a wrapped up grilled tortilla; and several varieties of breakfast burritos.

Taco Bell recently entered the breakfast market.

But drive-thru users don’t want to munch on just anything in the mornings. Fifty-seven per cent of those polled are concerned about the nutritional content of fast-food breakfast, and those restaurants seem to have taken the hint; 41% of consumers somewhat agree that fast-food menus have become healthier over the past year.

Several restaurants have released healthier breakfast choices in light of consumers’ concern about nutritious morning options. Chick-fil-a recently updated its yogurt parfait to feature Greek yogurt, which contains half the sugar and twice the protein as the previous offering. Panera has three 400-calories-or-less “Power” breakfast sandwiches that provide 12 to 16 grams of protein each. Dunkin’ Donuts even offers an entire menu of better-for-you choices called DDSmart. It includes items like the Egg White Veggie Flatbread, Oatmeal with Dried Fruit and the Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap.

The desire for a healthy breakfast is even more important to consumers when they aren’t in a hurry, according to the study. When time isn’t an issue, health benefits ranked first in what consumers are looking for in breakfast foods, with convenience coming in second.

Several companies have sought to marry health and convenience in their new products to meet this need. General Mills’ Yoplait brand recently released its new Plenti line – convenient cups of Greek yogurt filled with ingredients such as fruit pieces, whole grain oats, flax seed and pumpkin seeds. Kellogg’s Special K brand introduced Breakfast Medley Flatbread Breakfast Sandwiches, made with whole wheat and real eggs. Kellogg’s Morning Star Farms line also launched the Southwest Sunrise Breakfast Sandwich, a 200-calorie meatless option with 12 grams of protein. Earlier this year, Snyder’s-Lance unveiled its Lance QuickStarts line: mini breakfast biscuit sandwiches that offer 13 grams of whole grain and 3 grams of protein per serving. Lance recently expanded the line with five new flavors to keep things fresh for on-the-go breakfast eaters.

“In the U.S., with longer work days that break out of the 9-5 model, timing and convenience has become a deciding factor in what many Americans eat in the morning,” said Andy Jolls, chief marketing officer at Instantly. “But that doesn’t mean demand for breakfast foods is low. If companies can provide breakfast in a format that accommodates busy schedules while appealing to taste and nutrition, they could see significant incremental growth.”