The long-term research project by the Nirmala Niketan College of Home Science in Mumbai, began in 2009 and covered over 3,600 respondents between the ages of eight and 40 in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. It found that fears of weight gain and a lack of time in the morning fuelled Indians’ lack of focus on breakfast.
Eighty-four per cent of all subjects felt that breakfast should be light and 91% preferred it to be home cooked. Seventy-nine per cent of the people surveyed felt that fruits were important for a balanced breakfast.
Not the most important meal of the day
"Even among those who eat breakfast, we found glaring deficits in nutrients as per the recommended dietary allowance.
“About 72% of the subjects are having nutritionally inadequate breakfast, especially in terms of iron and fibre intake," Malathi Sivaramkrishnan, research director at the institute said.
Among adolescents, it’s worse, with one in three skipping breakfast completely to control weight, said Sivaramkrishnan. Yet nutrients missed by skipping breakfast are not being compensated through other meals in the day.
Residents of Kolkata were the most likely to miss out on a balanced breakfast, followed by Mumbai and Delhi, while those in Chennai opted for the most nutritious morning meal.
In spite of the amount of scientific research available about the importance of breakfast in a balanced diet, “not much known about the Indians breakfast eating habits”, said Sangeeta Pendurkar, managing director of Kellogg’s Indian operation, who commissioned the research.
"The findings are important for us at Kellogg’s as it provides us important insight into consumer behaviour.
“It is alarming to know that so many people skip breakfast, which is the most important meal of the day. We will try and educate consumers on the benefits of having breakfast."
Traditional tastes giving way to oats
The most preferred breakfast option in Delhi is paranthas; in Chennai, idlis; in Kolkata, eggs; and in Mumbai, bread or pav.
Western breakfast items like cereals are relatively new to the market and appeal mainly to India’s middle-class. Earlier this year, FoodNavigator-Asia reported that the segment is set to heat up with players like Kellogg, Hindustan Unilever and Maggi preparing to increase their cereal and oat offerings over the course of this year.
Neilson research last month revealed that the breakfast cereal market has surged by 38% over the previous year, with oats outpacing other options of the Rs720cr (US$120m) sector.