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Beyond the Bowl
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Cereals adapt to evolving consumer needs

While breakfast remains the top eating occasion for cereals, snacking is a close second; data shows that 25 per cent of consumers are eating cereals in the afternoon, with another 19 per cent consuming them in the evening, as well as for lunch and dinner.

The growing popularity of cereals is in large part due to its health halo. In a global survey from Innova, 50 per cent of consumers said they ate cereals because they were healthy, followed by 47 per cent saying they were tasty and 44 per cent citing convenience. Cereals are also considered a comfort food, with close to 60 per cent of consumers in a Mintel survey noting this.

This doesn’t surprise suppliers like WK Kellogg and General Mills, who shared their insights with Grocery Business.

image of a Jeff Chatterton
Jeff Chatterton

Jeff Chatterton, head of marketing for WK Kellogg Co., says the cereal category in Canada has a nearly 85 per cent household penetration, citing Nielsen Homescan Canada data.

“When it comes to nutrition, protein and fibre are the two nutrients most sought after at breakfast,” he notes. “Nutrient density and a desire to fill up and stay full through the morning are driving these trends. Fibre continues to trend upwards with 40 per cent of consumers in Canada stating that they are looking to add more fibre to their diets in a recent Health Focus study.”

image of a Ruth-Anne Hunsberger
Ruth-Anne Hunsberger

Ruth-Anne Hunsberger, director of cereal for General Mills Canada, says, “we know joy is a top need state in cereal, so we’re evaluating where and how we can infuse joy into our products, whether that be through taste, packaging, communications or the overall brand.”

She adds that the average consumer is eating cereal 6.5 per cent more than last year, predominantly driven by snacking occasions, and this is one of the motivators behind new innovations by General Mills, such as its “minis” cereals and granola in resealable pouches.

Chatterton notes that while in-home breakfast continues to be strong post pandemic, nearly 30 per cent of cereal is now consumed as a snack, and cites the company’s Rice Krispies cereal-based recipes. “We’re trying to bring homemade treat-making to the forefront, which can also help to grow the category through new occasions.”

WHAT’S DRIVING INNOVATION

Health and wellness and sustainability concerns continue to drive innovation in the category, say suppliers, with more offerings in low sugar, high protein and zero artificial colour or flavourings. In a 2023 Mintel survey, 56 per cent of consumers said they would be interested in trying products in resealable packaging to save food waste, and 41 per cent said they’d like to see more sustainable packaging.

“We’re always assessing trends to inform our innovation pipeline, and look forward to sharing more in the upcoming launch windows,” says Hunsberger.

Chatterton says WK Kellogg is focused on creating products that are nutrient dense and great tasting, and in June is launching low-sugar, high-fibre alternatives to some of its popular brand cereals.

Despite the focus on more sustainable offerings, shoppers still crave indulgent experiences.

“There’s space for indulgence and fun; cereal flavours that remind consumers of other experiences, either through a sense of nostalgia or with dessert-inspired flavours,” notes the Mintel study.

“The taste-led segment continues to be buoyant and fueled by exciting food news,” adds Chatterton, noting that the company recently launched a strawberry milkshake flavour for one of its brands and is introducing a marshmallow cereal later this year “to bring a new dimension of fun” to the cereal category.

image of a bowl

Caddle Shopping Insights, Cold Cereals, March 2024, getcaddle.com

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