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.