Breakfast visits grew the fastest of any out-of-home meal occasion in 2013, as burger sales at breakfast increased by 6% year-on-year, new research shows.

Figures from NPD Group, released to M&C Report, show that breakfast visits grew by 2.4% in the year to December 2013, compared to growth of just 0.2% for dinner.

“Over the past year in particular there’s been a lot of influence from a lot of operators trying to push [breakfasts], to stretch the day to include that breakfast occasion,” Jack MacIntyre, UK foodservice account manager for the NPD Group, told M&C Report.

He said quick service restaurants account for half of all visits. “All those sorts of places have been driving the increase in breakfasts,” said MacIntyre, who added that bigger chains have been pushing the growth more than independents.

He said breakfast sales in pubs “really picked up” in the second half of 2013, although he stressed that for pubs, breakfast is still a “very small proportion” of sales that has little impact on the overall picture.

Separate reach from NPD Group found that just c4% of people who eat out-of-home seek out healthy options. “That trend is increasing - health is becoming more and more important - [but] it is a hell of a lot less of a motivator than people think.”

This can be seen in the results from NPD Group’s latest research on breakfasts that found bacon sandwiches were the most popular breakfast item for eating out of home, with 268.1m servings per year in 2013.

Taking second, third, fourth and fifth places were toast, eggs, sausage and baked beans, which accounted for a further 793 million servings combined. Croissants came tenth with little more than 91 million servings, “indicating that our tastes at breakfast time are distinctly ‘uncontinental’”, said NPD Group.

Burgers were eighth, with more than 100 million eaten during breakfast hours away from home, up more than +6% on 2012. Around one in 12 out-of-home burger servings (8.6%) took place before 11am compared to one in 16 (6.2%) five years ago (year ending December 2008).

According to NPD Group, groups with children up to 17 are playing an important role in the growing popularity of burgers as a breakfast item.

Five years ago, adults unaccompanied by kids consumed more than 67% of burger servings eaten away from home in the 6am to 10:59am breakfast time slot. Groups with kids up to 17 years of age ate the remaining 33%. In 2013, the adult share of breakfast burgers is down eight percentage points (at just over 59%), while groups with kids now get through nearly 41% of Britain’s breakfast burger servings, more than 40 million each year.

MacIntyre said: “When people eat breakfast – perhaps on the way to work, or in the office, or as a treat at weekends – burgers are clearly growing in popularity. But the breakfast classics – servings of good old-fashioned bacon sandwiches, toast, eggs, sausage and baked beans – are unlikely to be toppled anytime soon.

“And, despite Britain’s improving café culture, it doesn’t look like continental breakfast favourites such as the croissant are going to sidetrack the appeal of the Great British breakfast.”