ROCKVILLE, MD. — Breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, but it’s one retail marketers continue to struggle with in regards to delivering what today’s consumer wants for the morning day part. Consumer packaged goods (C.P.G.s) companies, along with the retailers who sell morning meal solutions, are aggressively trying to gain back their share of the breakfast dollar, which in recent years has been lost to coffee shops, quick-service restaurants and drive-thru fast food.

Echoing an evolving consumer lifestyle trend, portability is shaping breakfast food usage growth, with foods such as breakfast bars, breakfast sandwiches, supplements and energy bars driving usage uptake, according to the hot-off-the-presses report “Breakfast: Retail Market Trends and Opportunities” from Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md.

“Traditional breakfast staples, such as eggs, bacon and sausage, are undergoing slight to moderate usage declines, in part because use does not fit as easily into consumer demands for quick and portable breakfast solutions,” said David Sprinkle, research director and publisher. “Cold cereal, another breakfast staple, has suffered from steeper declines. While it provides a quick, easy breakfast solution, it also suffers from lack of portability and may generally remain under pressure for high sugar content.”

Today’s consumers seek simplicity on their approach to breakfast, with varying degrees of healthfulness. Cost is always a consideration.

More than half (52%) describe the breakfast they normally have as “quick, easy and painless,” according to the report. About one-fourth (26%) describe their breakfast as “very healthy.” But for most, it doesn’t mean a particular low-/no- food health profile (low-calorie draws 13%, while low-carb draws 11%).

“More likely, it means settling on what it does have or can provide, with a quarter seeking high-protein options, and about a third (32%) looking for foods that provide them energy,” Mr. Sprinkle said. “Some 20% normally eat a breakfast that has a couple of important healthful ingredients: a consistent, go-to option that carries at least some health value.”

When it comes to innovation direction for C.P.G.s, the good news is that the majority of consumers view breakfast as more important than lunch or dinner, with a third strongly agreeing about its importance, giving breakfast marketers powerful ammunition to formulate marketing messages accordingly. These may include: self-care, responsibility, actualizing the potential of the day, even putting one’s best foot forward in tackling goals and aspirations.

“But at a time when retail and food service breakfast marketers are competing more aggressively than ever to capture and grow the breakfast daypart — and when the importance of food healthfulness is gaining some legitimate traction among consumers long in need of it — the recent decline in the percentage of consumers ascribing breakfast with more importance than lunch or dinner should trouble breakfast marketers,” Mr. Sprinkle said. “That’s right, while breakfast activity should be gaining momentum it is losing steam.”

According to the Packaged Facts report, 33.7% of consumers surveyed in 2015 strongly agree that breakfast is more important than the other meals. This declined from 37.9% in 2012.

“Only creating a paradigm shift in how consumers view breakfast — most importantly, spending the time, and how to spend that time — can stop this decline,” Mr. Sprinkle said. “Embracing snacking as a breakfast option is clearly important, with the tendency to snack for breakfast most pronounced among younger adults and those with children in the household.”

Key criteria to compete in the breakfast retail sector include convenience, along with health and wellness. It also includes the flexibility of a product to be positioned as a true breakfast food as well as a snack.