UK: Are tastes in breakfast cereal changing?

UK sales of processed breakfast cereals are dwindling, with many British breakfasters ditching the sugary brands for healthier, more natural alternatives, according to this report.

This month’s acquisition by a Chinese company of a majority stake in Weetabix, the UK’s top-selling cereal (we eat around 336 each a year, apparently) shows there’s still an appetite for processed grains for breakfast. But foreign markets unfamiliar with this relatively recent way of starting the day may now be the industry’s biggest players’ only hope for the future – after more than a century of growth, Britain’s best-known cereals are flagging.

“I do think,” says Nick Barnard of fast-growing natural foods company Rude Health, “in 20 years’ time, we might look back at the past 100-odd years and say: ‘We took good, natural, healthy, original grains, and turned them into sweet, scientific, industrial concoctions. Why?'”

According to the Grocer, UK sales of eight of the 10 most popular brands, including Corn Flakes, Crunchy Nut, Coco Pops, Cheerios and Special K, fell sharply in 2010-11. Rice Krispies, the worst performer, was down 12%; Weetabix bucked the trend, rising 4%, for reasons that may become clear later.

People may be turning to cheaper own-brands, but processed cereals’ share of the overall breakfast offer also slipped. And last month, UK market leader Kellogg’s said global turnover had fallen 10% in the first quarter of 2012, partly because it “did not grow” its European cereal business.

Until now, breakfast cereals have been an undisputed triumph of modern capitalism: take a cheap agricultural commodity; process it to death; relentlessly market it as healthy (Britain’s top 10 cereal brands benefited from £74m of advertising last year) and mark up the cost.

Few people have fallen harder for this than the Brits, who, after the Irish, are – as campaigning Guardian writer Felicity Lawrence notes in her book Eat Your Heart Out – the world’s greatest consumers of steamed, crushed, flaked, baked, puffed, extruded, shaped, salted, sugared and artificially flavoured breakfast cereal, downing 6.7kg each a year…..

The Guardian: Read the full article