Hot cereals remain the key driver of growth in the total cereals market, with an increased emphasis on the goodness of oats and a significant shift towards wholegrain, says Lisa Riley

The rise and rise of hot cereals continued last year as a number of the big brand names invested a lot of time and money banging the ‘oats is great for you’ drum to cash in on the nation’s growing hunger for healthier products.
Many major manufacturers also extended their ranges to include more convenient and exciting formats to liven up the increasingly popular sector. As a result, the hot cereals category remains the key driver of the £1.53bn total cereals market, which recorded a 4.6% jump in year-on-year sales [TNS Worldpanel 52 w/e November 6, 2005].
Growing well ahead of the total cereals market, instant porridge and porridge oats shrugged off their stuffy image, rising an impressive 44.3% and 22.3% respectively to a combined value of £105.8m.
“People are waking up to the fact that oats is a supergrain that provides specific health benefits over and above the acknowledged benefits of wholegrains,” says PepsiCo customer insights director Phil Norminton, owner of leading brand Quaker Oatso Simple.
Jordans recently developed what it claims to be the UK’s first multigrain porridge that offers the health benefits of four grains. “The product not only offers the goodness of wholegrain, but also has a chunkier texture and creamier taste than normal porridge,” says Jordans’ brand manager for hot cereals, Matthew Raw.
More innovation is expected this year as there is still room for growth in hot cereals. It currently accounts for less than 7% of the total market, while the ready-to-eat category has a 76.2% share. However,
the latter only managed to grow 2.1% in the past year and is now valued at £1.16bn.
The second-biggest sector, cereal bars, also helped boost growth in total cereals in the past year as it continued to attract new consumers.
In the cereals market as a whole, health continues to be the buzzword and there has been a great deal of emphasis on wholegrain and multigrain.
In the ready-to-eat cereals sector, the shift towards wholegrain has been the key move in the past year and this trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, says Cereal Partners, whose brands include Shredded Wheat, Shreddies and Cheerios.
“Wholegrain carries a strong health message and will be a long-term initiative and driver of growth, as the benefits of wholegrain are still to be fully recognised by consumers. Ready-to-eat cereal is at the forefront of innovation,” says Cereal Partners marketing director Dez Timmiss.
Weetabix this year entered the battle of the wholegrain cereals with the launch of Weetaflakes, a
wholegrain cereal that it claims is high in fibre and lower in salt and sugar than competing brands. It also added Alpen No Added Sugar with apricots, pistachios and dates to its wholegrain-rich muesli range.
But, despite all the activity, tempting consumers back to the breakfast table remains an issue to be tackled by manufacturers, as Britons have proven to be the worst offenders in skipping the all-important meal. In 2005, Kellogg published a major pan-European study revealing that one in five UK children go to school on an empty stomach, while 57% of parents miss breakfast.
In an attempt to reverse this negative trend, Kellogg last year held Rice Krispies Multi-Grain roadshows at schools across the UK, aimed at emphasising the importance of breakfast and digestive health. Not to be left out, Quaker has been extolling the benefits of a healthy breakfast as part of a healthy lifestyle, as well as introducing more convenient formats.
Toaster pastries, often regarded as a less healthy option, have been the big loser over the past year. Sales have dropped 30.9% to £16.9m, representing just 1.1% of the total breakfast market.
The future trend will be towards functional cereals, says PepsiCo’s Norminton. “Cereals that positively help health, such as Take Heart, are going to be the next big thing. We will also see more products targeted at specific ages, especially kids,” he says.