Hot and healthy. The phrase applies as much to the category as it does to the oats. Even before the recent cold spell. For Quaker, the UK's biggest porridge brand, 2009 brought the biggest sales uplift in its 100-year history. Sales of Quaker Oats grew 15.2% in December [Nielsen]. But as the UK was gripped by Arctic conditions at the start of 2010, on 7 January Quaker had its biggest-ever 24 hours selling more than £1m in one day.

The fastest growth is in instant porridge, with sales up 9.3% to £75m, while traditional porridge oats grew 3.8% to £53m [TNS 52w/e 1 November].

Sales of Quaker's instant brand Oat So Simple have risen 23.1% in the past year to £43.4m, with volumes up 18.3%. Sales of its traditional Quaker Oats Hot cereal slipped 0.5% to £11.5m [IRI 52w/e 7 November].

Kerry Fuller, senior brand manager of Dorset Cereals, which has both an instant and traditional offer, insists instant is not stealing buyers. "Instant's gains come from higher volume and price. Brands like Oat So Simple and Scotts So Easy are growing the market with NPD and strong promotional activity."

In August, Quaker launched kids porridge brand Paw Ridge, in a 750ml loose oats pack and Honey and Original porridge 10-sachet packs. In its first few months, it achieved sales of £461,000, with first-year sales targeted at £5m [IRI 52w/e 7 November].

The launch of Paw Ridge is likely to eat into Ready Brek's kids market, which, after record growth in 2008, only managed flat sales of £13.5m in 2009 as volumes fell 7.1%. However, Ready Brek Chocolate and Honey variants added momentum to the brand growing value 7% and 23% respectively in the 12 weeks to the end of November, according to owner Weetabix.

Jordans is also covering both bases, launching Quick & Creamy Porridge in October to complement its Chunky Traditional.

Focus On Cereals