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Who says cereal should only be eaten in the a.m.? That’s the thought behind recent efforts to reposition the breakfast staple as an appropriate food choice at any time of the day, as well as to impart the high recognition factor of familiar cereal brands to other products, as Minneapolis-based General Mills was able to do with its Fiber One portfolio, which now encompasses such items as bars, brownies, cookies and baking mixes.
"We are seeing significant gains across superfood cereals such as Qi'a and more indulgent options like granola, which are both versatile and provide eating occasions outside of morning breakfast," says Darren Mahaffy, VP marketing at Richmond, British Columbia-based Nature's Path Foods, while Noel Geoffroy, SVP for morning foods marketing and innovation at Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co., notes that two new flavors from the company's Bear Naked Granola line -- Sea Salt Caramel Apple and Coconut Almond Curry -- "are great in a bowl with milk or straight from the bag as a snack."
"Increasingly, [cereal] has become 'not just for breakfast anymore,' and is commonly enjoyed at different parts of the day, consumed as a snack, used to bridge meals, replace meals [and] even help with satiety and weight management," affirms Leslie Sabino, senior business manager, cereal category and supplier management lead at Stamford, Conn.-based Daymon Worldwide. "Consumers partake in the category [to feed] their desire to snack, indulge and reward themselves, as well as maintain a reliable, affordable option that works for them nutritionally."
Sabino adds that consumption of RTE cereal is driven by consumers' need for snacking alternatives. "Today's snacking culture is so prevalent that cereal brands are offering various packaging for on-the-go consumption to facilitate its snackability."
Among those companies is Post Foods LLC, whose parent company, Post Holding Inc., in St. Louis, recently revealed its pending acquisition of fellow cereal company Mom Brands, based in Lakeville, Minn. "Consumer behaviors are shifting, affecting the RTE cereal category as a whole," explains General Manager Tony Shurman. "Consumers are seeking fresher, leaner, more on-the-go options, which are having a meaningful, exciting influence on Post's innovation pipeline."
To that end, the Parsippany, N.J.-based manufacturer has "expanded our offerings to include drinks, snack mixes, granolas and biscuits to evolve with America’s evolving tastes," notes Shurman, citing such recent rollouts as "great-tasting Breakfast Biscuits, which deliver over 55 percent of your day's whole grains; Great Grains The Bar Undone granola snack mix; [and] in the drinks space … Post Goodness-To-Go Breakfast/Anytime Shakes." Additionally, for home bakers, there's the Honey Bunches of Oats Granola Snackers line, which goes from mix to oven in five minutes.
The food's versatility is also obvious to retailers. "Customers are looking for alternatives –- quick meal solutions, on-the-go items, single-serve packages that they can eat on the go," affirms Alex Cabrera, category director at Anaheim, Calif.-based Northgate Gonzalez Markets.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Store Inc., meanwhile, is actively engaged in changing perceptions of the category. According to Senior Buyer Amanda Madrid, "We are working with our suppliers [to] focus on taste and convenience and to help break the conventional mode of thinking that cereal is just a breakfast food -- it can be enjoyed many other times throughout the day."