“Cereal remains king of the breakfast table for now, but its reign may be coming to an end as it’s missing the mark for many consumers, specifically when it comes to satiety and portability,” Mintel said.
As a result, the cereal category continues to decline, added the market research company.
Mintel data showed total US sales of hot and cold cereal have declined 9% since 2012 to an estimated $10.5bn in 2017. Additionally, cold cereal, which makes up 87% of the market, has seen sales decline 11% in the last five years, with sales estimated to reach $9.1bn in 2017; while sales of hot cereal (13% market share) are forecasted to reach $1.3bn this year.
However, cereal consumption remains high suggesting the key to re-energizing sales could lie in “encouraging current cereal consumers to eat it in a wider variety of situations and leveraging its strongest asset – great taste,” said John Owen, Mintel’s senior food and drink analyst.
Younger generations snack cereals
Mintel's research showed more than 43% of US cereal consumers eat cereals as a snack at home, ranking as the second most common occasion to consume cereal aside from breakfast (89%). Meanwhile, 17% of consumers snack on cereal away from home and 10% enjoy cereal on the go.
Younger generations are leading the “snacking on cereal” movement, added Mintel.
“More than 56% of Millennials say they have eaten cereal as a snack at home, compared to just 32% of baby boomers. The iGeneration (aged 18 to 22) are the most likely cohort (21%) to enjoy cereal on the go.
“It’s hard to deny cereal’s snackability, with 74% of cereal consumers agreeing that it is great for a snack,” said the company.
Taste drives cereal snacking
Mintel said taste may be the “driving force” behind snacking on cereal outside of breakfast.
"While younger consumers may question the suitability of heavily-sweetened cereal for breakfast when compared to more protein-rich alternatives, they may consider it to be a perfectly acceptable snack or treat,” it said.
“Gone are the days of bland, flavorless options” as 49% of US consumers view cereal as a way to indulge in a guilt-free treat, and 60% of them said lightly sweetened cereal is their favorite choice.
“Despite the fact that 29% of cereal consumers say they are eating less heavily-sweetened cereals, the same amount [of people] are choosing cereal that tastes good regardless of how nutritious it is.”
On the other hand, interest in healthy cereal is also on the rise, the data indicated.
In 2017, cereal consumers are eating more ancient grain-based cereal (49%), muesli (40%), granola (36%) and high-fiber cereal (33%), compared to last year, added Mintel.