Thursday, February 14, 2013

The British retreat

There has been considerable buzz in recent weeks over the 50th anniversary this month of the "British Invasion", the craze of rock and pop music from the United Kingdom that found its way to the U.S. When it comes to breakfast cereal, the Americans can take credit for the invasion going the other direction. Britons enjoy a hearty breakfast, and cereal is almost as popular there as it is in the U.S.

For the most part companies usually tailor their products for different countries and regions, taking into account cultural and taste preferences. While the U.K. has many of the same cereal brands and varieties, they are not always the same. For example, a recent report in the Daily Mail showed that major cereal brands in Britain contain 30% more sugar than their U.S. counterparts. This has raised particular concern because English children are among the fattest in Europe. It appears that while U.S. formulas changed over the years because of public pressure, the recipes in Britain have remained largely unchanged. But, this is not likely to continue. For instance, market analysts estimate that sales of Kellogg's Frosties (i.e. Frosted Flakes in the U.S.) have dropped over 18% in the last year largely because of negative publicity in the U.K. concerning sugar in cereal. There has even been a proposal to ban sugared cereals altogether.

The point in all of this is that times are changing. The days of hyper-sweetened cereals are coming to an eventual end as consumers vote with their wallets. This trend has already been well underway in the U.S., and is now taking place in other major markets like the U.K. This British retreat from the cereals of the past is one further indicator that the place of cereal in our lives is changing. At one time cereal was marketed, especially to children, as a fun experience. In an age of health and environmental concerns, and belt-tightening we are losing much of that. The focus today is on health and value, and we are losing much of the emotional element behind our daily breakfast bowl.

Only time will tell what impact this will have on our love affair with cereal.

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