8 Ways Cereals Can Have Serious ‘Snackability’

As consumers seek more varied snacking options, new research from Chicago-based Mintel reveals that more than two in five (43%) U.S. cereal consumers eat cereal as a snack at home, ranking as the second most common reason to consume cereal, aside from breakfast (89%).

Also, almost one in five (17%) say they have cereal as a snack away from home and 10% enjoy cereal on the go. Meanwhile, 56% of millennials say they have eaten cereal as a snack at home, compared to 32% of baby boomers.

“Gone are the days of bland, flavorless options as many view cereal as a way to indulge in a guilt-free treat (49%),” the report says. And with only 14% of cereal consumers saying they buy single-serving varieties, packaging innovation may be a key opportunity, because two in five (40%) agree that cereals should be more portable.

“While breakfast is the most common occasion for eating cereal and nearly universal across age groups, snacking on cereal may offer greater potential for reinvigorating category growth, especially among younger adults,” said John Owen, senior food and drink analyst for Mintel.

“Considering how popular snacking is among millennials, there could be an opportunity to increase snacking and on-the-go consumption of cereal among younger generations,” said Owen. “Many consumers view cereal as a guilt-free treat, suggesting that a bowl of cereal could be positioned as just as satisfying as, but more sensible than, other more dessert-like options.”

Dampening the snacking opportunity is the fact that the cereal category continues to decline. Total U.S. sales of hot and cold cereal have fallen 9% since 2012 to reach an estimated $10.5 billion in 2017, according to Mintel.

Cold cereal, which makes up 87% of the market, has seen sales decline 11% in the past five years, with sales estimated to reach $9.1 billion in 2017. Meanwhile, sales of hot cereal (13% market share) are forecast to reach $1.3 billion this year.

Click through to see eight reasons hot and cold cereal innovations fit into the snacking phenomenon. 

Nearly nine in 10 (86%) Americans say they’ve had cold cereal, and more than two-thirds (68%) indicate they’ve had hot cereal in the past year, according to the Mintel report. 

While lightly sweetened cereal is the most popular choice (60%), interest in healthy cereal is on the rise, according to Mintel. Many cereal consumers say that, compared to last year, they’re eating more ancient-grain-based cereal (49%), muesli (40%), granola (36%) and high-fiber cereal (33%). 

When it comes to selecting cereals, consumers consult their taste buds first: Taste is the most important factor consumers consider for both cold (80%) and hot (77%) cereal, Mintel data shows. 

When consumers search for a filling breakfast to start the day, hot cereal may be the answer: Fifty-eight percent of cereal consumers agree that hot cereal is more filling than cold cereal.

“Taste plays an important role and may be the driving force behind snacking on cereal outside of breakfast,” Owen said. “While younger consumers may question the suitability of heavily sweetened cereal for breakfast when compared to more satiating or protein-rich alternatives, they may consider it to be a perfectly acceptable snack or treat.”

Cereal as a protein snack makes sense, considering Nielsen reports that only 20% of Americans consume proteins as a snack between meals, compared to 72% who said they consume it for dinner. If protein consumption were parceled out more evenly throughout the day, this would be a trigger to fuel the demand for more protein snacks.  

“Opportunities exist for marketers to both accentuate positives and, to the degree possible, eliminate negatives, by emphasizing great taste, a greater variety of occasions to encourage consumers to purchase and eat more cereal,” Owen said.