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Top trends in Canadian breakfasts, lunches and dinners
By Linda Strachan
April 19, 2012




Top trends in breakfasts, lunches and dinners at Canadian restaurantsConsumers trade three squares for quick, healthy convenience

From breakfast to dinner, Canadian consumers are making the switch from a traditional meal schedule to one that’s fast and flexible, with a little Asian twist along for good measure.

Breakfast gets healthy

Breakfast has seen consistent gains in recent years, with more consumers opting for the convenience of grabbing something on their way in the morning. Besides the growth for smoothies, other healthy choices are making gains: Breakfast wraps and sandwiches, hot cereal and bagels. And you can’t talk about breakfast without mentioning coffee. While plain old brewed coffee is the number one item at breakfast, served at 57 per cent of all morning meals, it is specialty coffees that are gaining more attention from consumers in the morning – lattes, flavoured and iced coffees.  

The new liquid lunch


Smoothies are by far the fastest growing item on the Canadian restaurant scene, spurred by both the growing interest in better-for-you choices, and product introduction by major players, including Tim Hortons and McDonald’s McCafes. There were nearly 80 million servings of smoothies sold in the past year ending November 2011, almost double that of the previous year. Smoothies have appeal across several meals;  they are most popular as an afternoon snack, followed by the morning meal, and one out of five is served up at lunchtime. This falls in line with a trend that NPD is seeing, with more consumers moving away from three square meals. If a smoothie in the middle of the afternoon meets their needs, they can skip lunch. Finally, there also appears to be a modest gender bias in terms of smoothie consumption: Women order 60 per cent of the cool treats. Still, smoothies appear to be popular across the board and are the fastest-growing item among both men and women.

Asian influence grows

Another culinary trend is the growth of Asian foods – Chinese, sushi, Thai – up by 25 million servings in the past year. Canadians’ palates are getting more adventurous. While two out of three Asian main dishes are served at supper, the key growth lately is at lunch, highlighting the broader acceptance of Asian foods as an on-the-go choice. In fact, Asian dishes are the fastest growing item at lunch overall.

Dinner loses steam

A not-so-great trend at dinner is the fact that the fastest growing item in the past year is… tap water. Dinner has been struggling since the recession, and even though dinner eked out one-per-cent traffic growth in the past year, budget-weary consumers are still watching their spending, and increasingly choosing tap water over a paid-for beverage. At full-service restaurants, 12 per cent of dinner occasions now include only tap water – no other beverage – a trend that has been gaining for the past two years. Losing out on high-margin beverage sales doesn’t help the bottom line. Possible solutions might include merchandising beverage specials through table tents or well-informed server suggestions and recommendations.

Top 10 List

Breakfast    Lunch Supper
1 - Hot Coffee 1 - Carbonated soft drinks 1 - Chicken/poultry entrees
2 - Breakfast Sandwiches 2 - French fries 2 - Carbonated soft drinks
3 - Eggs 3 - Burgers 3 - French fries
4 - Hash browns/home fries 4 - Chicken/poultry entrees 4 - Salads
5 - Bagels 5 - Hot coffee 5 - Seafood
6 - Toast/sliced bread 6 - Deli meat sandwich 6 - Pizza
7 - Bacon 7 - Salads 7 - Burgers
8 - Juice 8 - Hot chicken sandwich 8 - Alcoholic beverages
9 - Muffins 9 - Tap water 9 - Chinese/Cantonese/Szechwan
10 - Hot tea 10 - Soup 10 - Tap water

See also:

About the author

Linda Strachan is a restaurant industry analyst for the NPD Group. The NPD Group has more than 25 years of experience providing reliable and comprehensive consumer-based market information to leaders in the foodservice industry. For more information, visit or contact Strachan at

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