Breakfast cereals have seen a decline in total volume sales of 6% between the 2012 high and 2015. This is a result of volume losses suffered by ready-to-eat (RTE) cereals, due to health concerns and consumers’ changing breakfast habits, coupled with stagnation in hot cereal sales since 2013. Further decline is expected in 2016. Despite this decline, strong consumer interest in cereals with ‘positive nutrition’ or ones high in protein shows potential to drive growth going forward. Demand for low-sugar variants should also guide future NPD.
RTE cereals enjoy high penetration, eaten by 83% of adults in the six months to June 2016. They are also widely eaten on a regular basis, with over half of users eating RTE cereals most days or more often, highlighting the ingrained role these have as a breakfast staple. That RTE cereals are quick to prepare is likely playing a key role here, this being the quality most breakfast eaters look for when choosing a breakfast food, having been selected by 55%.
Usage of porridge oats falls behind than that of RTE cereals, being eaten by some 42% of adults. Regular usage is also noticeably lower, with 30% of porridge eaters eating it most days or more often.
High fibre content is the most important nutritional factor influencing which breakfast cereal or porridge people buy for themselves, selected by 61%. High fibre is a popular claim in breakfast cereals, featured on 43% of NPD in 2015, making it more a baseline requirement than a way for brands to differentiate themselves. Meanwhile, some 58% of people who buy cereals for themselves cite low sugar as an important choice factor. While there has been a rise in new cereal launches featuring an L/N/R sugar claim over the last few years, it still only featured on 13% of NPD in 2015.
Meanwhile, foods that are high in protein have become more popular in recent years, reflected in high protein being sought by 32% of people who buy breakfast cereals for themselves. Interest in high protein is highest among men, particularly those aged 16- 24. This ties in with protein’s association with fitness, exercise and muscle gain, and is in line with young men being the primary users of sports nutrition products.
Finally, some 48% of parents of under-18s agree that it is hard to find a healthy cereal that their kids like. Many operators are actively reducing the sugar content in kids’ cereals, while some have looked to alternatives such as honey.
Managing sugar content will continue to be important, however, parents of under-18s are more likely than others to believe that if a sugary cereal has other nutritional benefits, it’s OK to have for breakfast. Fortification, which is already common in cereals, should therefore help ensure permissibility.