NEW DELHI: Breakfast is becoming a "sweet spot" for the QSR sector in India according to a leading McDonald's executive, as busy consumers have been neglecting the first meal of the day.

"We believe that there is a growing market for out-of-home breakfast," said Ranjit Paliath, vp/business operations, McDonald's India, West and South.

"This is a reflection of an evolving lifestyle, characterized by nuclear families, rising young and working population coupled with growing disposable income and increasing distances and commute times," he told Pitch magazine.

He cited figures indicating that most people don't see breakfast as an essential meal, that three in four don't have an "adequate" breakfast while one in four skips it altogether.

"Breakfast skipping is common across cities," he added, especially in Mumbai and Chennai, where 34% and 37% respectively opted to do without.

In the face of this indifference to the first meal of the day, McDonald's launched National Breakfast Day in 2013, since when it has distributed more than 100,000 free McMuffins to customers across west and south India.

This emphasis on breakfast is part of a wider global trend. Last year, for example, Yum Brands unveiled a new breakfast menu for its 300 Pizza Hut outlets in China, while other western brands operating in the country have also increasingly targeted this meal, leaving traditional Chinese restaurants and stalls struggling for trade, despite their steamed buns and soybean milk being significantly cheaper.

Interestingly, India's QSR sector could conceivably benefit from the current controversy surrounding Maggi noodles, as people are forced to reassess their eating habits.

The Times of India reported, for example, that instant noodles were "considered a good breakfast option" by movie crews and advertising teams on commercial shoots, who will now have to seek sustenance elsewhere.

And nutritionist Meenakshi Bajaj told the paper that "people often think that having instant noodles or cereal in the morning is a wholesome meal", but she warned that regular consumption "could lead to life-long constipation".

Data sourced from Pitch, Times of India; additional content by Warc staff