04/18/2012 04:36 EDT | Updated 06/18/2012 05:12 EDT

Breakfast outlets that cater to millennial market can expect sizzling results

TORONTO - More Canadians eat breakfast on the run and it's the 20-something group that's driving the trend, says a market researcher group.

But as the so-called millenials age, the people who now fall into the 19-35 age range will also be looking for healthier options they can easily eat during their morning commute.

A study by the NPD Group shows growth among quick-service restaurants for the morning meal, because more Canadians don't stop in their own kitchens before they head out the door. NPD predicts that segment of the market will grow 10 per cent by 2016.

The study, "A Look into the Future of Foodservice," finds that nine per cent of the population prefers to pick up their morning meal at outlets such as Tim Hortons or McDonald's, and this has led to a 14 per cent increase in breakfast sales in the past year.

But even though menus have been expanded and promotions offered, the food companies could do more to capitalize on forecasted growth for morning meals.

"In order to profit from this trend, (stores) will need to offer menu items that appeal specifically to millennials and that stimulate the interests of this group," Robert Carter, executive director of Foodservice at the NPD Group, said in a release.

Convenience is key, but as the millennials age they're expected to be more concerned about nutrition, so there will be more demand for breakfast items that are low in calories and have smaller portion sizes, NPD Group said.

Many restaurant chains have already expanded their breakfast offerings, with more sandwiches and healthier fare. Within the next five years, healthy breakfast servings are expected to increase by more than 11 million servings among millennials.

"To build customer loyalty, it is imperative that (restaurant) menus provide variety, convenience and value for their healthier options,” Carter said.

"Restaurants that effectively develop and market products that meet these conditions will generate repeat business and thrive."