Several years ago, I made some predictions about the breakfast revolution. I looked at trends in cold cereals and RTE innovations with an eye on on how breakfast, as an all-day consumable, would impact the marketplace. Before seeing how these predictions held up, here’s a brief recap:

  • Cereal is no longer just a substitute for a hearty, cooked breakfast but a snack, dietary supplement and an all-occasion food.
  • Packaging plays a huge role in making this happen; think of Kellogg’s Frosties in a plastic tub, Cheerios in a “go pack”, even oatmeal in a just-add-water single serve container.
  • This kind of innovation has moved beyond the cereal aisle, allowing on-the-go consumers to eat their favorite foods anywhere: airports, hotels, cars, you name it.
  • Millenials will have a significant impact on the future of breakfast.

So where are we today?

In 2015, Kellogg announced that it is partnering with well-known chefs to invent “new ways to use Kellogg’s breakfast products, starting with creative takes on a bowl of cereal such as YouTube chef Angel Wong’s Macha Morning Bowls and evolving into other breakfast offerings.” This in response to a 5% drop in cereal sales from 2009 to 2014, “despite the fact that more Americans are eating breakfast than ever before.”

In its effort to reimagine cereal, Kellogg launched their “Stir It Up” campaign, helping raise cereal consumption in the US 30% when consumed “outside the breakfast occasion.” How did this happen? According to CEO John Bryant, “People add different fruits, soy milk, coconut milk, avocado, yogurt, even cayenne pepper.” This trend is fostering a whole new set of variations for cereal consumption in the US.

Cold breakfast cereal takes a tumble

Late in 2014, major cereal brands had to face a hard fact. Sales of cold cereals were declining. Millenials in large part are driving this trend. They want more options: health bars, easy-serve pouches because this group likes to eat but not to clean up, customizable dishes with lots of topping choices, single serving packages and all natural (no chemical) options.

So how do cereal brands evolve and stay relevant? In order to appeal to Millenials and to those who are abandoning cold cereal, Kellogg’s had to find new ways to include recognizable cereals into a 21st Century diet. Hence the launch of “Sweet Potato Breakfast Pudding.” In fact, the company will debut more than 40 new products in the upcoming year.

Great minds think alike.

Joining Kellogg is General Mills who has also been working hard to reposition the breakfast staple (cereal) to an any-time-of-the-day product. It’s Fiber One portfolio now incudes items such as bars, brownies, cookies and baking mixes.

In the words of Leslie Sabino, senior business manager for consultant Daymon Worldwide, “Today’s snacking culture is so prevalent that cereal brands are offering various packaging for on-the-go consumption to facilitate its snackability.” In other words, cereal is a great choice for those seeking ease and accessibility, wellness or weight management and the ability to customize.

Both Kellogg’s and General Mills slashed sugar and sodium and upped fiber in their ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals; this in response to evidence that consumers are seeking fresher, leaner options—a smart move in light of the popular appeal of wearable fitness devices.

Some like it cold—some like it hot

As consumers embrace new ways to “get their fiber,” we’re seeing the rise of smoothies and hot cereal. Millenials are all over this trend. They add granola and other fiber-rich RTE cereals to yogurt, fruits, kale and juice for breakfast. Millenials are also taking an interest in hot cereals like oatmeal. And as cold and hot cereals compete for market share, packaging will play a big role, particularly convenient cup and snack-size flow packs for lunchboxes or office snack alternatives.

Health is on the menu

Target stores nationwide are offering Jr. Organic Granola Cereal with organic and non-GMO ingredients. Kellogg’s latest cereals include Raisin Bran with Cranberries, Special K Gluten Free, Kashi Sprouted Grain among other new offerings with “good for you” features.

Oregon-based Pacific Foods is getting into the breakfast category with a line of organic-ready-to-eat steel-cut oatmeal that checks all the following boxes: vegan, dairy and soy free and non-GMO.

And not to be outdone, Los Angeles-based Thin will offer Thin Protein & Fiber Hot Oatmeal, which it says is the first in the hot cereal category to offer a combination of protein and fiber at 200 calories and under.

So what’s next?

I believe it’s safe to say that the predictions I made in 2009 came true and then some. I also think it bears noting that breakfast is an evolving category. What does this mean for designers? It means “thinking out of the box.” Literally. It means keeping our collective ear to the ground for things like: economic trends (what are consumers willing to spend?), health and fitness, changes in work styles (as more people work offsite, do their breakfast habits change?) and gamification. Remember the prize in the cereal box? Some brands are taking that to a whole new level. For instance, General Mills has partnered with popular children’s video Sky landers to offer in-the-box cards and a game board on the cereal box. The concept includes a downloadable code to unlock characters. It brings to mind scenes from the revered movie “A Christmas Story.” But if it worked once, it could work again. So what are the top breakfast trends we’re following at Kaleidoscope?

  • On-the-go-packaging
  • Gamification
  • Health certifications on the package
  • Testing, testing, testing!

I’ll leave you with what I believe is the designer’s mantra. We have the responsibility to first observe and understand. Then it is our job to design in a way that inspires the consumer. This is how we’ll fulfill the ultimate purpose of growing the brand.