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Cereal: Is it Popular Again Just For Now or Will the Habit Stick?

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the main story on breakfast cereal was that it was just one more thing that millennials had killed… they don’t like using dishes and utensils for on-the-go breakfast, they are looking for more protein content in their breakfast, they don’t eat breakfast anymore, etc.

Then came the pandemic and demand for breakfast cereal shot up, from the sugary kids’ cereals to the high-fiber “adult” cereals. We were looking for foods we could easily stockpile. We were eating breakfast at home, not on-the-go. We were leaning into nostalgia and comfort foods, as well as those with a health halo.

But, a year on into the pandemic… more kids are back in school, and more people are vaccinated and looking to go back to at least some of their pre-pandemic habits.

So, what’s next for cereal? How do cereal companies move forward and keep those renewed cereal habits going?

Packaging is part of the story. Package it perhaps in a stand-up pouch for dry consumption, as a snack or a topper for yogurt or oats. Package it for individual servings in a single-use bowl (preferably molded fiber or other eco-friendly type) for away-from-home consumption. Package it for e-commerce, considering the minimum needed to protect the cereal in-transit while saving space in shipments.  

Reformulating is another part of the story. Elements that add protein or versions that are made gluten-free, vegan, or with less sugar appeals to many modern consumers. Additionally, classic, fun flavors have nostalgic appeal and attract those who look for a treat or dessert, so incorporating classic flavors or brands into snack bars, cookies, ice cream, or other complementary food items gives consumers more ways to enjoy cereal.

Marketing and reframing is the rest of it. Cereal companies were already doing some of this before the pandemic, but cereal need not only be for breakfast. Other eating occasions that fit this sweet, but nutritionally fortified, nostalgic treat include snacking and dessert. For many older consumers, favorite childhood cereals are now too sweet for the morning meal, but are attractive as an end-of-the-day mini-indulgence.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including the packaging category with titles such as Pouches and Corrugated & Paperboard Boxes. Related food and beverage industry analysis from our sister publisher, Packaged Facts, include Global Breakfast Cereals, Dairy & Egg Alternatives: Outlook for Plant-Based & Cell-Cultured Consumer Products, Vegan, Vegetarian, & Flexitarian Consumers, Home Baking: US Market Trends & Opportunities, US Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking, Grocery Shopping & Food Trends in the Age of Coronavirus, Global Food E-Commerce, and Online Grocery in the US. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage