With cold cereal introductions mostly targeting children, adults had more hot varieties headed their way in 2001. The cereal aisles also boasted innovative packaging solutions, with products available in single-serve cups and microwavable containers.

Baked goods benefited from unique combinations of what some may regard as unrelated concepts, as well as from efforts to make preparation fun and interesting.

Cool is for Kids

Marketing strategies paved the way in cold cereal introductions in the past year, with Monsters Inc., Atlantis and the Grinch just a few of the movie tie-ins making their way to shelves. Not that marketing proved the only source of new cold cereal products; old favorites expanded their reach with new takes on classic items.

From General Mills, Minneapolis, Minn., Corn Flakes were augmented by a new variety—Country Corn Flakes, touted as an excellent source of calcium and boasting 12 vitamins and minerals. General Mills also increased Lucky Charms' seasonal offerings with Winter Lucky Charms, featuring holiday marshmallows in the shapes of candy canes and wreaths, as well as a similar winter-themed extension for Cap'n Crunch. Cap'n Crunch Christmas Crunch added Robo-Chi-shaped crunchberries.

Attempting to target the healthful cold cereal eater, Cheerios has begun noting its heart-healthfulness.
Packaging of those cold cereals also proved a source of inspiration in 2001. Quaker Oats', Chicago, Toasted Oatmeal Squares served the convenience trend with its 2.5 oz. single-serve canister, part of a line of single-serving cups that just need milk and a spoon.

Cold cereals did not completely ignore adults in 2001. Functional and healthful claims were easily found, and the organic boom continued to make its way through the market.

Traditionally regarded as a healthy meal, breakfast cereals have seen their health claims grow far beyond simply low fat, with added calcium and enriched with vitamins and minerals. The growth of functional foods and nutraceuticals has led to more scientific and specific health claims on labels, with products now touting their ability to lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease, fight free radicals and even to remove toxins. Golden Temple of Oregon, Eugene, Ore., serves as an example, launching a variety of Peace organic cereals with a soy isoflavone.

The majority of organic launches came from smaller companies. Notable among 2001's introductions were Organic Optimum Power from Nature's Path Foods, Blaine, Wash.; Great Beginnings from ProVision Farms, Crookston, Minn.; and Earth's Best Kids! from Hain Celestial Group, Uniondale, N.Y. General Mills did not allow itself to be left out of the category, either, as it debuted Sunrise lattice-shaped corn and wholewheat.

In addition to children, women became a popular focal point for cereal manufacturers. Many mainstream-branded, low-fat products sought a female audience, including items addressing health issues rather than simple weight-control concerns. Cereals with ingredients particularly beneficial to women continued to make their way to aisles, featuring additions such as folic acid and iron. W.I.N. comes immediately to mind. This line of cranberry and honey cereals from Altus Foods, Chicago, (a joint venture between Quaker Oats and Novartis, Summit, N.J.) included such ingredients as NovaCalcium, soy protein, folic acid, iron and vitamins. However, with Pepsi's acquisition of Quaker, plus Novartis' desire to shed its food interests, W.I.N. has already been discontinued, and Altus is no more. Nonetheless, the line serves as an example of the focus of cereal manufacturers.

While “women and children first” seems the rallying cry of manufacturers, cereals targeting men and the aging population could be areas ripe with opportunity. Also, expect to see more usage of healthful ingredients, omega-3 in particular, and more complex carbohydrates.

Convenience will continue to play a major role in developers' minds, as the recent crop of introductions indicates. However, many recent moves have repositioned cereal brands more as a quick snack, i.e., Kellogg's, Battle Creek, Mich., use of Frosties and Nutri-Grain in hand-held cereal bars. Another such example of the move toward convenience is General Mills' Morning Mix, sold in pouches and intended as an “on-the-go” breakfast snack that requires no milk.

Heating Up

Somewhere, somehow, manufacturers must have thrown out all the past notions of hot cereals, as the newest introductions in this subcategory have had more of a fun aspect. General Mills added a little fun to instant oatmeal by debuting Treasure Hunt, which featured mini treasure chests and golden keys that “melt” to reveal emeralds, rubies and gold coins.

Kellogg and Disney have teamed up to launch a new line of cereals with kid-favorite Disney icons as their theme.
Fun was only part of the year's story in hot cereals, however. Healthfulness and functionality played a role in some introductions, and some opportunity rests in low fat claims in hot cereals, where that feature has yet to be highly promoted. Reaching the hot cereal consumer looking for functional aspects, InterNatural Foods, Paramus, N.J., launched Fortified Oats with nine essential vitamins. This area could well be a target for future functional growth, incorporating ingredients such as omega-3, selenium, antioxidants, prebiotics and soy.

More grains served to add texture to hot cereals, as well as additional health benefits. Multi Grain from Hodgson Mill, Effingham, Ill., featured whole grains, wheat bran, wheatgerm and more.

The Bakery Bread Mix Rises

Ever more versatile, breads have seen their introductions grow with increased consumer awareness of specialty options and fortified lines. More wordly consumers have led to a growth in the number of specialty breads available, including now-popular versions of focaccia, wraps, tortillas and pitas, as bread lines increasingly are influenced by international flavors.

As with virtually all categories, the organic and natural trend has fueled an introduction fervor, and organic lines are starting to offer other benefits, i.e., fortification and flavor enhancement, added varieties, etc. An example of the organic category's impact can be seen in Tumaro's, Los Angeles, launches of organic flour tortillas. This line of tortillas is featured in pesto and garlic, garden spinach and herb, and sundried tomato and basil varieties.

The functionality of breads continues to be an area where companies seek improvement. Popular added ingredients include vitamins, minerals such as calcium and iron, as well as functional ingredients like prebiotics and omega-3 oils. Older, more affluent consumers appear to be the target for such premium fortified items, while women have also had special attention paid to their needs.

Chex is blurring the definitions of snacks and cereals with Morning Mix, a combination of cereal, nuts and fruit touted as boasting extra vitamins and minerals.
Plant estrogens, evening primrose oil and calcium are just an example of ingredients found in breads targeting women, with claims of treating menopause and PMS symptoms. Meanwhile, fiber content continues to be important, as do more-fortified lines. One such example came from Crum Creek Mills, Springfield, Pa., whose Soy Protein Bread Sticks promised to be an all-natural, fat-free source of soy protein and rich in isoflavones.

Fiber has played a role in the emergence of variety breads, which also have benefited from media/medical reports touting them as helpful in preventing certain types of cancer and heart disease, while aiding digestion. Freihofer Baking's, Troy, N.Y., Heart-Healthy 100% Whole Wheat Bread, for instance, claims to be low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, while possibly reducing the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Not to be outdone, white breads have been augmented with vitamins, minerals and other healthful ingredients, all part of efforts to gain a better health positioning. An example is IronKids white sliced bread from Earthgrains, St. Louis, which promises “all the fiber (of) whole wheat and as much calcium in two slices as in a glass of milk.”

Snacking possibilities also emerged in 2001, with Schwan's Sales Enterprises, Marshall, Minn., capitalizing on bread's dipping potential with Italian-style Stuffed Breadsticks with cheese filling. Meanwhile, the convenience factor hit breads as well, as Van der Meulen, Hallum, The Netherlands, offered bite-size bread toasts, which can be served with a spread, as canapes or as a snack unto themselves.

Bread makers also found success in crossing types of breads. Sunnyvale Bakery, Richmond, Calif., for example, added a chocolate chunk variety to its sprouted bread line, which also boasted Hemp Sprouted Bread (lowfat and high in omega-3 and fiber) and Hemp Corn Rice Sourdough, gluten free and a source of omega-3 oils.

The Sweet Science

Healthfulness is playing a role in cakes as well, though indulgence and convenience also impact this area. While indulgent cakes seems a redundancy, the trend has been toward a more upscale, premium product sold as a treat. Galaxy Desserts, San Rafael, Calif., for example, recently launched Grand Tetons, two pyramid-shaped mousse cakes available as Chocolate Grand Teton and White Chocolate & Raspberry Grand Teton, and Petit Fours, described as classically French with contemporary flavors and California-style freshness.

Targeting the need for convenience among the indulgent, Kellogg is expanding its Eggo Waf-Fulls frozen filled waffles into a new blueberry variety to complement its line of strawberry, maple and apple-cinnamon varieties. The toaster could get quite a workout from the new offerings available, as Nabisco, Parsippany, N.J., has added Chips Ahoy! Toaster Pastries based on the chocolate chip cookies. Kellogg added a number of new items to its Pop Tarts range, including Pastry Swirls in several varieties, Powerpuff Girls and Monsters Inc. lines, and a Wild Aqua Blast flavor promising a fruit punch-flavored filling; there is also Pop Tarts' own take on a chocolate chip variety.

Shaping the Future of Cookies

Once the domain of low-calorie introductions, cookies have returned to their indulgent roots and now adhere to the need for convenience, interactivity and enrichment. New shapes and flavors have done much to gain consumers' attention, as evidenced by Nabisco's success with Oreos featuring limited-time Christmas, Halloween and Easter varieties, as well as the new full-time Oreos with chocolate cream centers.

Shapes also played a role, as McKee Baking, Collegedale, Tenn., debuted Pumpkin Delights, filled sandwich cookies in the shape of a pumpkin lantern. Oreos also benefited from a new shape, of a sort. Mini Oreos, bite-size versions of the classic in foil bags, positioned the brand as a snacking alternative.

Fun found its way into the category, as well, with Oscar Mayer Foods', Madison, Wisc., Lunchables Chocolate Cookies, offering consumers a tub with cookies, Pillsbury vanilla frosting and M&M's Minis for consumers to customize at will.

Grown-ups saw more-indulgent cookie offerings, with coffee and white chocolate among the new flavors coming to the fore. Kathleen's Bake Shop, Richmond, Va., launched white chocolate macadamia nut premium biscuits, and Nikki's Cookies, Milwaukee, debuted teapot-shaped, all-natural cookies with a touch of lemon.

As in other categories, look for a wider variety of flavors to penetrate the market, as caramel, toffee and fudge could well be augmented by more tropical/exotic fruit flavors, in particular in cream-filled sandwich biscuits.

Sidebar: Great Expectations

The breakfast cereal category—especially cold cereals—will continue to expand its offerings specifically to women.

More cereals will appear for on-the-go consumption. This may take the form of dry cereal to eat as a snack or combinations of cereal, milk and a spoon for portability

Functional foods may have the greatest opportunity in the breakfast cereal market.

Ethnic products will grow in the bakery category, especially in breads and crackers, into Indian, Mexican and perhaps African products.
—Lynn Dornblaser, Global New Products Database, lynnd@mintel.com