Cereals or grains belong to the ‘Poaceae or Gramineae’ families and are cultivated widely and in huge quantities throughout the world. They provide more food energy than any other type of crop. While wheat and rice are the most important crops worldwide some countries also grow rye, oats, barley, maize, triticale, millet and sorghum. In India cereals like flattened rice (poha) and broken wheat (dalia) have always been a part of the breakfast platter. However, ready to eat cereals, muesli and oats have gained acceptance too mainly because of the apparent health benefits these cereals provide and convenience.
Cereals have health benefits
How exactly cereals convey health benefits may not be clear but their micronutrient content, fibre content and/or their glycaemic index, fat content could be some factors. Most breakfast cereals are considered to be low in fat, high in carbohydrates and fibre and so good for the heart. Eating wholegrain cereals and bran is considered to be more beneficial than refined cereals as the milling process reduces nutrients. Fibre, vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the outer bran and aleurone layers of the grain and processing tends to remove them. Manufacturers are also using the ‘health’ angle to market their breakfast cereals as a better option than ‘parathas,’ eggs, kachoris, especially with an increase in the spread of lifestyle diseases like diabetes and obesity. The nation is now turning away from these indulgent breakfasts to more wholesome choices and therefore the packaged breakfast cereal has become an important category in food and beverage industry.
Rising breakfast cereal market
It was Kellogg’s, Bagrry’s and PepsiCo Quaker that set the trend for packaged breakfast cereals and these players have already captured a large share of the packaged breakfast cereal market. According to “India Breakfast Cereal Market Outlook, 2021”, India’s breakfast cereal market is growing at a CAGR of 22.07% since the last five years. The Indian breakfast cereal market consists of the hot cereals mainly oats and ready-to-eat cold cereals like cornflakes, wheat flakes and muesli. Manufacturers have also segmented the breakfast cereal market so separate products that appeal to children, adults and the elderly. The new urban lifestyle and eating trends have increased experimentation in this segment, so breakfast cereals are now available with newer Indian flavours to appeal to Indian tastes. Masala oats, banana and mango flavoured cornflakes are some Indian options in the market.
Cornflakes dominate the market but consumers are also opting for oats and muesli. Urban consumers prefer these options as they can be managed quickly and conveniently especially at morning times in busy urban households. While existing players are enhancing their reach the breakfast cereal market is attracting new players like Marico and Heinz. FMCG chains on the other hand are focusing on ready-to-cook traditional breakfasts like upmas, idlis, dosas, etc. There are a number of consumers that prefer ethnic flavours so manufacturers are introducing savoury options in packaged breakfast cereals too that are both tasty and nutritious. Consumers now have the option of quick traditional breakfasts as well as healthy packaged breakfast cereal options.
How to select breakfast cereals
Packaged breakfast cereals may suggest potential health benefits but not all of them provide the health benefits that are hinted at. Some processed cereals are high in sugar and refined carbs which can harm your health. Consumers tend to get taken in by misleading labels which could indicate the presence of “wholegrain” and “fibre” but the content could actually be low especially those that have refined grain. Cartoon and fun characters on packaged cereals, in most instances are a sales gimmick. It is important to read the nutrition information to select the right kind of cereal for your children. Some cereals are fortified with minerals and vitamins which is a good thing. However, if the cereal grains are refined and contain sugar they are not really a healthy option even if they are fortified. It is also a good idea to check the most current ingredients and nutrition claims as sometimes manufacturers’ state that ‘this nutrition information could change”.