Porridge, that most traditional of sectors, is being boosted by revamped convenient formats, while major manufacturers are bringing out oat-based lines to their ready-to-eat ranges as fast as they can.

The fact that nutritionists are now so enthusiastic about oats is a boon to companies making porridge, which is simply milled oats. PepsiCo, owner of brand leader Quaker, says that increased consumer understanding of the benefits of oats, plus a wider awareness of the simplicity of preparation, means "the category is far less seasonal and is likely to remain a key growth category for some time".

As such, the major players in the category have recently been revamping their porridge lines to further capitalise on its new-found popularity.

According to PepsiCo, hot cereals have fuelled 46% of cereals growth, with its Quaker brand driving 71% of it. It predicts that the hot cereal sector will grow by 50% in the next three years.

Figures from TNS also show that the number of breakfasts eaten because they are healthy has increased by 10% over the past two years.

PepsiCo is spending £5.8m on marketing to shout about the revamp of its standard oats and Oatso Simple lines, which have been given a packaging makeover.

The company has cut salt levels by 50% across its Oatso Simple brand, which now also have 18% less sugar, and removed all artificial flavourings. It has also replaced its apple & blackberry flavour with apple & blueberry, to ride the current wave of popularity for superfruits.

Marketing manager

Jo Cartwright says that by combining superfruits

such as blueberries with oats the product will appeal to more health-conscious breakfasters.

Weetabix has followed its lead with a relaunch of its Seriously Oaty brand, which the company said would give it stronger shelf presence. A smaller, more consumer-friendly pack format is also being introduced, with the move from eight sachets to five, enabling it to sell at the more competitive price of 99p.

To further demonstrate how seriously it now regards the hot cereal category, Weetabix has also revamped its Ready Brek brand,

following research revealing that consumers often misinterpret its on-pack description of hot oat cereal as meaning processed.

The new boxes include a message positioning the cereal as porridge oats. On-pack information explains that the product is porridge oats enriched with vitamins and minerals, which have been finely milled for a smoother texture to suit younger children's palates. The idea is to convince mums that Ready Brek is ideal for their children.n