Oats is the word in the cereals market at the moment, with Quaker poised to bring out a range of premium oat-based mueslis and rival Nestlé adding an oat option to its Cheerios stable.

Both players are spending £5.5m on backing their newcomers, which reflects the growing popularity of oats' energy and heart-health benefits.

Nestlé Cereal Partners' Oat Cheerios appears on shelf later this month and will get backing from a £2.5m campaign, while Quaker is putting £3m behind its mueslis, which will roll out a week later.

The launches follow a period of health-oriented activity in the category, with oats taking the lion's share of attention. Quaker has marketed its oat-based range on its heart-health promise, while Kellogg's Optivita cereal highlights the cholesterol-lowering properties of its oat bran.

The mueslis consist of three variants and owner PepsiCo claims two of them - Exotic Fruit Oat and Harvest Fruit Oat - are the first mueslis with oats as the only cereal ingredient.

The duo combine jumbo kilned and toasted oats with fruits and seeds, while the third flavour - Quaker Fruit & Nut Oat muesli - blends kilned oats and wheat with fruits and nuts and no added salt or sugar.

Quaker is also extending its Granola portfolio with two new flavours - strawberry & raspberry and red apple & wild blackberry.

According to TNS figures, the oats cereals market has grown by more than half in the past two years [52 w/e to 31 Dec, 2006] with consumers attracted by the slow-burning energy release as well as health benefits.

"The cereals market has changed and oats and oat-based cereals are growing in popularity and driving category growth," said Quaker's marketing director Carol Garbutt. She said the Quaker mueslis would target people who "want all the health benefits of oats but more variety of choice".

Nestlé Cereal Partners NPD manager Mark Fanner said Oat Cheerios would attract a new audience to the Cheerios brand, as well as appeal to existing family-oriented consumers.