The cereal industry has faced some strange times of late. During the height of the pandemic, grocery stores ran out of Grape Nuts for about three months, General Mills ran out of Cheerios and Post faced supply constraints for its Honeycomb cereal.
The impetus was a surge in demand that began in March 2020, when cereal consumption suddenly jumped 26.9%, per the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. That pandemic-influenced demand came after years of sales declines.
The reason for those long-term declines aren’t that hard to fathom. An analysis of the sugar content of cereals by Bloomberg found that Famous Amos cookies were squarely in the middle of various cereals when you measure them by sugar content.
A Mintel report from 2021 found that parents are aware of the nutritional content of cereal and would like some changes. That report found that 81% of parents whose children eat cereal would be interested in cereal formulated for children’s nutrition and that 77% of such parents wish there were healthier cereals for their children.
In a 2014 report by the BBC, a food industry analyst for the NPD Group found that many people were swapping cereal for yogurt. At the time, NPD found that 80% of Americans ate breakfast inside the home, 10% skip breakfast altogether, and 10% get it outside the home.
That lays the groundwork for Kellogg’s looming breakup. Kellogg is planning to split the company in three, including one devoted to cereal. As Kellogg prepares its next move, any end to the pandemic may bring a swan song for cereal consumption—after all, it was likely people stuck at home during the pandemic that prompted that surge.
In the future, those that cater to consumer desires for a healthier, less-sugary alternative to cereal are likely to be rewarded as cereal continues its muted existence.