Oatmeal, cold cereals find new venues

Articles
October 21, 2008

Oatmeal, cold cereals find new venues

Goldilocks undertook great risk for a bowl of porridge, and nearly paid for it with her life. Consumers today have it so much easier when craving oatmeal as a nutritious start to their day. They could stir up and cook any of dozens of center-store products, including newer multigrain varieties with dried fruit. Or they could take 30 seconds to microwave new refrigerated cereals from Kozy Shack, best known for its rice puddings. Though oatmeal is dressed up in the supermarket today, and is a leading Health & Welllness food choice, consumers seem to want more from the activity of eating oatmeal.

Goldilocks undertook great risk for a bowl of porridge, and nearly paid for it with her life.

Consumers today have it so much easier when craving oatmeal as a nutritious start to their day. They could stir up and cook any of dozens of center-store products, including newer multigrain varieties with dried fruit. Or they could take 30 seconds to microwave new refrigerated cereals from Kozy Shack, best known for its rice puddings.

Though oatmeal is dressed up in the supermarket today, and is a leading Health & Welllness food choice, consumers seem to want more from the activity of eating oatmeal.

Why else would people embrace a hefty restaurant price premium for this most common of comfort foods—or for that matter dole out extra for its frequent lesser nutritional cousin, the bowl of cold cereal?

Do they want community at breakfast, a friendly smile from their Starbucks barrista who accepts their $2.50 for a cup of oatmeal, which has become the #1 food seller in the entire Starbucks network, according to a recent report in Advertising Age.  Because free oatmeal coupons went to 1.5 million rewards program members in September to help the launch, the purchase frequency in autumn and winter will be more telling. But what a steamy start!

On a handful of college campuses, another curious foodservice approach to cereal is taking shape, called Cereality.  Its leading market appears to be sleepy college students who haven’t yet transitioned into full daylight mode, who enjoy being served cold cereal by staffers in pajama uniforms. It doesn’t faze them to pay approximately $4 per bowl for cold cereal with toppings they could buy in the supermarket and pour in their dorm for about a buck; perhaps if it were their money (instead of their parents) they might think twice.

We can’t tell yet if outside-the-home oatmeal and cereal consumption is so convenient that it induces more people to eat breakfast and (hopefully) be healthier. Nor do we know if this cannibalizes supermarket sales, or expands the market. This development is so new that figures aren’t certain.

But health benefits do seem locked in, and that motivates. According to Quaker,  40 scientific studies support the idea that eating oatmeal daily may help lower blood cholesterol. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted the first food- specific health claim to Quaker Oats for use on oatmeal: Soluble fiber from oatmeal, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

It doesn’t surprise that foodservice operators are pursuing this nutritional niche. But when people are pinching their spend on nutritional value, this trend is a curious one. We’ll watch to see if it keeps hot.