(CNN) — The high price of eggs and other breakfast staples is forcing some to look for cheaper breakfast alternatives. How about ramen?
Cup Noodles, the budget-friendly food company, has created a breakfast version of their instant ramen, which mixes the flavors of sausage, maple syrup pancakes and eggs in a saucy texture designed to come to life with water.
Aptly titled “Cup Noodles Breakfast,” the meal takes four minutes to cook in the microwave and results in a soup-based ramen that also contains “visible ingredients” of sausage and eggs. Eaters are encouraged by the company to customize it with hot sauce, more syrup or even rice.
Priscila Stanton, senior vice president and marketing for Nissin Foods USA, compared it to a “classic diner breakfast in a cup,” without the hassle of making a full meal with all of those ingredients.
“This idea was about how you bring all of those great breakfast cravings into a cup,” she told CNN. The company’s research discovered that eggs, sausage and pancakes were the picks to create the best breakfast combination.
Nissin moving into breakfast isn’t a “great leap” for the company, said Neil Saunders, an analyst at GlobalData Retail.
“The wacky mix of ingredients is on brand for Cup Noodle, which often fuses traditional noodles with local flavors that it thinks will be appealing to consumers,” he told CNN. Also, American eaters may be “turned off” from traditional ramen flavors, but “will be more interested in sweet flavors they associate with traditional breakfasts.”
“Cup Noodles Breakfast” goes on sale for $1.18 beginning Wednesday at select Walmart stores and on the retailer’s website.
Battle for breakfast
Nissin entered the the battle for breakfast because it saw its affordability and convenience as an advantage, especially as inflation takes a toll on food prices.
After all, egg prices in February are 55% higher than they were last year despite declining in price in recent months. And other brands known for breakfast, like cereal makers Kellogg and Post Brands, increased prices last year.
“Breakfast has been this discussion point about how do you really leverage this moment in the consumer’s day to day,” Stanton said.
“It’s no longer a time of day where consumers sit down and have a full meal — that’s long gone. There are quick service restaurant options out there, but consumers are looking for more things from the grocery store and have readily available,” she said.
People between 18 to 34 years old are “considerably more likely than their older counterparts” to choose a more convenient breakfast, such as cereal or fast food, because it’s easier to eat during their morning hustle, according to Paige Leyden, Mintel’s associate director of foodservice, flavors and ingredients.
Covid-19 sparked a “sharp rise in the number of people having more formal ‘sit down’ breakfasts at home,” Saunders added. However, that has since faded as people returned to the office or even work from home where they “eat at their home desks to start the day,” he said.
Stanton added that the product’s $1.18 price makes it a “trifecta” of consumer wants: a flavorful product, convenience and value. “There aren’t as many options out that that deliver all three elements, so we compare ourselves to what other meals consumers can actually have access to and we’re such a bargain,” she said.
On the other hand, consumers might be turned off by floating pieces of sausage in their ramen.
Breakfast ramen is Cup Noodles’ second limited-time offering, following the sale of pumpkin spice ramen last fall. Stanton said that flavor sold “very well” for the 65-year-old company, showing that there’s “a lot of openness with our consumers” about wacky flavors.
“Part of the fun is getting people to have that conversation about whether something is going to be amazing or not,” she said. “The challenge for our consumers is to make decisions and to try to let us know what they think.”
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