Increasingly, Cereal is Sharing the Fiber Spotlight with Other Products

10 Jun 2012

The US cereal market should be buoyed by consumers’ attitudes towards food and eating habits. Sixty-five percent of adults aged 18+ agree that they are trying to include more fiber in their diets and 46% consider “nutritional value” to be the most important factor when choosing foods. When it comes to ranking ingredients themselves, consumers […]

Increasingly, Cereal is Sharing the Fiber Spotlight with Other Products

The US cereal market should be buoyed by consumers’ attitudes towards food and eating habits. Sixty-five percent of adults aged 18+ agree that they are trying to include more fiber in their diets and 46% consider “nutritional value” to be the most important factor when choosing foods.

When it comes to ranking ingredients themselves, consumers consider fiber to be as important an attribute as added vitamins and minerals and as wholegrain. Fiber ranks above a number of no/low/reduced attributes, demonstrating its significance in consumers’ food choices; it shares top position among consumers as an attribute related to nutrition they want to see in their foods. Sixty-five percent of consumers look for foods high in vitamins/minerals, fiber, and wholegrain, according to a recent Mintel survey.

Fiber has become a “go to” ingredient for consumers of all ages.  The nutrient used to be connected almost exclusively to digestive health and regularity and high-fiber products tended to be identified with seniors seeking natural laxatives. But, fiber has transitioned to a younger crowd, which looks to it for satiety and energy.

American consumers also strongly support the importance of eating breakfast, ranking it as the most important meal of the day. While just 16% of consumers consider lunch to be the most important meal, and only 17% feel the same way about dinner, 58% consider breakfast to be the top meal of the day, according to Mintel.

Cereal is well positioned to capitalize on consumers’ desire for more fiber in their diets and for their propensity to rely on breakfast as their “important meal.” More than eight in ten breakfast eaters (84%) include cereal in that meal, and one of the main reasons they do so is to benefit from the satiety attributes of a high-fiber cereal. Forty-two percent of breakfast eaters choose cereal because it helps manage health concerns, many of which are answered by an increase in fiber consumption.

While the cereal industry has the potential to realize appreciable gains because of the US consumer’s heightened interest in fiber, however, there are equally high fiber competitors that could present it with a serious challenge. Cereal bars, for example, have also ratcheted up their high fiber credentials, as has bread (which often translates to toast at breakfast) and other bread products such as bagels.

It would seem that cereal has little to fear from these competitors, because of its significant penetration in the US market. But, it is notable that only a third of cereal eaters name the product as their “favourite breakfast food.” This suggests that they could be tempted to move away from cereal, even high-fiber cereal, if other products satisfied their desire for a healthy and quick breakfast, two of the major attributes they accord to breakfast cereal.

This is especially true as both cereal and cereal bars are faced with a new competitor, the fiber-rich breakfast biscuit. In Europe, the growing popularity of this type of breakfast solution, represented primarily by Kraft’s Belvita, has met with mixed success. In the US, Belvita’s success cannot be adequately measured yet, as the product was introduced to the market less than a year ago. But, the fact that two-thirds of cereal eaters seem to be invested in the category without a major amount of enthusiasm suggests that the new product may siphon off some of the cereal industry’s user base. The industry may want to consider innovating more around totally new products or ingredients, rather than simply “fibering-up” current SKUs in order to recapture and re-involve more consumers.

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