Out-of-home occasions featuring a savoury bakery item are up 3% compared to Q3 in 2017, new research from analyst MCA has revealed.

The insights are part of its Quarterly Bakery & Sandwich Tracker, which also highlights a 1% decrease in the number of sweet bakery occasions to 500 million between July and September. This has been driven by a hefty 6% decline in sweet bakery snacking despite gains at breakfast and dinner.

Savoury bakery, meanwhile, gained at every meal time, with breakfast driving the strongest growth with an increase of 15% to 212m occasions.

The “significant” decline in total snacking is cause for concern, believes Gareth Nash, consumer insight director at MCA. However, he noted snacking continues to be the most important day-part.

“Breakfast and dinner are great opportunities for retailers and operators to maximise bakery sales,” he said. “However, with over 532 million occasions in Q3 2018, they cannot take their eye off the snacking mission and should seek growth opportunities in a declining day-part,” he added.

When it comes to specific items, sandwich carriers gained a share of total out-of-home meal and snack visits – up 0.5 percentage points to 26.8%, meaning they appeared on 644 million occasions.

Within this, traditional sandwiches and baguettes dropped slightly, while bagels were the “big winner this quarter”, having been bought on more than 50 million visits. Notably, their growth was partly driven by McDonald’s, which now accounts for 35% of all breakfast bagel visits.

The report is underpinned by MCA’s Eating Out Panel, which includes 6,000 monthly consumer interviews every year. The sample is representative of UK adults in terms of age, gender and region, and covers every day of the year. The results look at the consumer trends affecting the bakery and sandwich market – purchase behaviours, purchase locations, spend and products.