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Natural Born (Cereal) Killers

Natural Born (Cereal) Killers

    As a child, I hated cereal, but I didn’t consume it like everybody else. For me, cereal was an evening meal, and we got the “healthy” options: Cheerios, Shredded Wheat and (most regrettably) Kix. When I did have a chance to indulge in the more sugary varieties such as Lucky Charms, Froot Loops, or Cocoa Pebbles, I viewed that eating experience as more of a dessert. Certainly they contained more substance than a piece of cake, but the sweet flavor was the quality that compelled my interest. For many of my childhood friends, this was also true: they would eat sugary cereals in the morning as a daily ritual. The market was locked: a seemingly healthy product that parents were OK giving to their eager children ensured longevity in production. But recently, a perception has been growing that calls this market’s stability into question.

Many millennials appear to be consuming alternative breakfast options such as snack bars and acai bowls. These options meet specific consumer needs. A snack bar makes the breakfast experience extremely portable while still providing nutrition needed for the day. While “healthy” options do exist, many bars rely on cereal-based carbohydrates and sugar for that morning energy boost. Acai bowls rely on providing a more wholesome breakfast experience with natural sugars and carbs providing the desired shot of energy, but they also require more time to prepare and eat, which could inhibit integration into a busy morning schedule. But either category does represent a shift away from the age-old process of buying a box of loose cereal at the store and consuming that product with milk or a milk substitute.

A quick look at the market would infer that cereal companies are doing quite well. Both General Mills and The Kellogg Company are experiencing a five-year trend of positive growth and every boxed cereal I ate as a child is still on store shelves. Does this contradict the perception? Not necessarily: one must remember that both companies maintain a diverse portfolio of breakfast options, such as snack bars and breakfast shakes. While I have not been able to locate itemized sales numbers, I suspect those ‘convenience’ products have grown substantially during this growth period. Additionally, many older Americans may still be consuming enough boxed cereal to stabilize that portion of the market. Regardless of how boxed cereal is fairing currently, the question arises: will convenient and/or healthy breakfast options eventually destroy the ‘boxed’ market? As a millennial who hates boxed cereal, I am inclined to say yes. A process that requires extra time both to eat and wash dishes does not sound appealing based on the product that it affords. While the other options might not be comparable to a five star breakfast buffet, at least they can be consumed without wasting my time. Perhaps they will open the market to some yet-to-be-invented breakfast option that is as tasty and healthy as it is convenient. For those reasons, I support these cereal killers in their noble quest to destroy mediocre food.

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