Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Is the future of cereal in flavor?

The big question in the mind of cereal manufacturers and marketers is how to bring new life to a food commodity that no longer has the same appeal to consumers. We have frequently discussed this problem and the possible innovations that could make a difference, but perhaps one obvious factor may be overlooked: flavor.

A recent article in Food Business News examines the issue of flavor in cereal and reveals some of the interesting possibilities ahead for our favorite breakfast food. Author, Jeff Gelski, provides a comprehensive view the various factors behind flavoring cereals, making for an interesting read. He suggests that flavor provides a tremendous opportunity for innovation, and that new flavors are about to hit the market, like mango, chili pepper and honey, and candy.

The point in all this is that there is much room for creativity and pushing new boundaries when it comes to cereal. Most of what we see out there is a re-hashing of what has been done before: marshmallows, fruit flavors, chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon, etc. Rarely do we see something that completely disrupts the market, and yet the industry is in desperate need for something that captures the imagination of consumers. And, with many people eating cereal outside of breakfast, there is probably a real market for such varieties as spicy and savoury.

Back in 2016, I highlighted Kellogg owned Bear Naked's foray into cereal customization. Modeled after Germany's mymuesli, Bear Naked allows online customers to create their own combinations, now with such wild options as lavender, pale ale, jalapeno, bacon, bourbon, coffee, chipotle, beets, wine, olives, kale and curry, among more conventional choices. It's hard to say how popular these choices are, and this approach is still far from the mainstream.

Maybe it's time for a startup to take this on, or better yet for the big cereal companies to step outside of their comfort zone and present consumers with some choices that will truly get their attention.

What cereal flavors would you like to see?


Debbie Gilbert said...

I'm skeptical that the average consumer will want such exotic ingredients. I recall that last year the big trend in snack foods such as chips was sriracha and other super-spicy flavors, and now those are being pulled off the shelves because most people did not want anything so extreme. When it comes to cereal, it's true that many adults often eat it at night, but I don't think it necessarily follows that they want "dinner"-type flavors such as curry. I still think the number-one reason people eat cereal is that they want something sweet.

However, I do think manufacturers could do a better job utilizing existing flavors. Case in point: Last night I tried the new PB&Chocolate Cheerios for the first time, and I couldn't believe how wonderful it was -- one of the best cereals I've ever tasted. Essentially, it's the same formula as the Reese's cereal – peanut butter and chocolate. But the Reese's brand is drenching it on a Kix/Trix/Cocoa Puff type of base, whereas this new brand is putting those flavors on Cheerios. Somehow, this makes the flavor much more assertive and substantial.

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