As features like non-GMO and gluten-free become mainstream in cereal, cereal manufacturers continue working hard to get ahead of the next trends. New themes include cereal designed by kids for kids, new grains like Kernza, meat and veggie cereal bars, snacking granola, and the addition of functional ingredients like collagen for skin health and choline for brain health. Taste, health, and convenience are key drivers for these emerging trends.
Protein is gaining a foothold in the cereal aisle as major brands respond to the protein craze. Some even offer multiple flavors of protein cereal—like Cheerios Protein, which comes in Cinnamon Almond and Oats & Honey. Recent product launches of protein cereal include Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Protein Granola, fortified with pea protein. As consumers become more nutrition savvy, they’re checking the nutrition label for nutrients like protein and fiber that provide sustained energy and keep them fuller longer.
In cereal bars, protein continues to flourish, with expanded flavors for Kind Protein Bar and PowerBar Clean Whey Protein Bar. PowerBar has also launched its new PowerBar Plant Protein Nourishing Snack Bar to provide a plant protein option. Front-of-package protein claims and the use of allergy-free protein sources, such as pea protein over soy or whey, are smart strategies to get consumers’ attention.
General Mills has announced plans to launch a cereal containing the eco-friendly wheatgrass Kernza in early 2019. This drought-resistant perennial has roots twice as deep as wheat, which helps keep nutrients and water in the soil and prevents erosion. Unlike wheat, Kernza doesn’t require tilling or annual planting.
Other new grains popping up include tsampa, a Himalayan barley that’s sprouted and roasted, featured in Peak Sherpa Himalayan-Style Tsampa Barley Cereal. A traditional Aztec blend of roasted purple corn and cacao beans, known as pinole, is featured in Purely Pinole Hot Power Cereal by Native State Foods.
Meat & Veggie Bars
PowerBar has introduced a hybrid bar called PowerBar Jerky & Nut Savory Snack Bar which contains pieces of beef jerky. This sweet and savory bar is available in Original, Teriyaki, and Barbecue flavors.
Vegetables have also found their way into bars. Products include LARABAR Fruits + Greens in flavors such as Strawberry Spinach Cashew and Pineapple Kale Cashew. SaladShots Snack Bars also contain kale and spinach, along with other superfoods like goji berries and chia seeds.
A superfood is a food known to be a nutritional powerhouse, typically due to its high concentration of healthy vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Superfoods include seeds, nuts, ancient grains, green veggies, and superfruits like berries.
While many of these are commonly found in cold cereals, hot cereals, and cereal bars, it’s becoming clear that to grab a consumer’s attention—the more, the better. Trader Joe’s launch of a Tart Cherry Chia & Pumpkin Seed Oatmeal is a perfect example.
Consumers often use the presence of superfood ingredients as a proxy for a good nutrition label. Companies may also wish to call out the addition of superfoods in the marketing copy (e.g., SaladShots Snack Bars are “infused with superfoods”) or in the product name itself (e.g., Vigilant Eats Superfood Cereal).
Another way to make a better-for-you cereal product is with functional ingredients. Kellogg’s release of Special K Nourish Berries & Peaches Cereal with Probiotics not only addresses consumer demand for healthier foods but also reveals a strategy to better compete with yogurt at breakfast time.
In cereal bars, Zone Perfect Revitalize for Mental Focus provides choline for brain health and green tea extract for focus, while Brain Fuel Bars by IQ Bar contain lion’s mane extract, flavonoids, prebiotic fiber, omega-3s, vitamin E, and magnesium. Skin health is the focus of NeoCell’s Collagen Cookie Bar.
A custom nutrient premix can be used to boost vitamins and minerals on a nutrition label, as well as introduce ingredients like antioxidants, amino acids, and botanicals.
New cereal launches seem to have centered on traditional comfort flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon. Examples include Chocolate Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Puffs Hot Cocoa with Marshmallows, and Lucky Charms Cinnamon Vanilla.
In addition, coffeehouse flavors have shown up in products such as Trader Joe’s Caramel Flavored Coffee Granola and General Mill’s Mocha Crunch Cereal. Sweet Home Farm Granola (by Attune Foods) released Mocha Latte and Caramel Latte flavors.
Granola’s current popularity isn’t just driven by taste and health but also by snackability. Snacking granola includes products like Bear Naked Granola Bites and Back to Nature Granola Clusters. The slightly larger piece size makes it ideal for snacking. And packed in small plastic pouches, snacking granola also becomes an on-the-go treat.
The rise of snacking in America represents a valuable opportunity for ready-to-eat cereals to expand beyond the breakfast meal. Attention to packaging and piece size is key to creating a cereal that can serve as both a breakfast cereal and a snack.
By Kids, For Kids
Seeking to connect with Gen Z consumers, Kashi teamed up with five up-and-coming chefs and bakers, aged twelve to seventeen, to co-create a new cereal line called Kashi by Kids. The members of the so-called Kashi Crew were identified as Gen Z leaders and are featured on the company's website.
Kashi by Kids cereals are organic, contain healthy ingredients like chickpeas and red lentils, and come in Honey Cinnamon, Cocoa Crisp, and Berry Crumble flavors.
The new year is sure to be filled with more innovations in taste, convenience, and health. Key considerations include getting the taste just right, including keeping sweetness in check and not straying too far from tried-and-true flavors like vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and honey.
Improvements in portability like smaller packaging sizes and resealable packaging will increase usability options for busy, on-the-go consumers and facilitate daytime snacking.
The continued focus on health requires products that are based on good nutrition since consumers are checking the nutrition label for protein, sugar, and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals. In addition, manufacturers should consider incorporating trending foods into their cereal products and adding functional ingredients that can meet specific health and wellness needs of consumers—such as improved focus, sleep, digestion, or energy.
As a leader in nutritional ingredients, Watson is committed to keeping you informed about the latest health and nutrition trends in the food industry to help you meet your consumers' needs. Learn more about the Nutrients of Concern for Americans.