From Burger King to Steak ‘n Shake, more foodservice operators are incorporating traditional cereal brands into specialty beverages that serve as a snack or dessert. This is a smart strategy given that 55% of consumers have purchased a snack from a QSR in the past three months, according to Mintel’s Snacking in Foodservice US 2017 report. 

In summer 2017, Burger King launched a Lucky Charms shake, and the chain also offers both Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Fruit Loops shakes. Beverages are specifically gaining traction in the snack category, with 88% of consumers agreeing that there are more beverage snack options than there used to be and 63% saying they prefer snacks paired with a beverage. Last August also saw Steak ‘n Shake introduce a breakfast shakes in partnership with Kellogg’s cereals. Those shake options feature Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, Frosted Flakes, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Cocoa Krispies varieties. 

Interestingly enough, Kellogg’s moved directly into the foodservice space in July 2017 with a pop-up café in New York City. This unique venture served $7 cereal bowls and marketed cereal for occasions that go beyond breakfast. In December 2017, Kellogg’s expected to open a permanent cereal café in New York’s Union Square neighborhood. The café focuses on a gourmet cereal experience and is going to include a DIY station with ingredients from the Union Square Farmers Market. The café is designed for a dine-in occasion and encourage consumers to linger, socialize and work from the location.

In retail, cereal is struggling because Millennials aren’t eating cereal for breakfast in the same manner they did in childhood. Nevertheless, cereal brands continue to bet on the nostalgic association cereal has for this generation. Mintel has identified this as a “Never Say Die” trend and it highlights how brands and operators release products to tap into consumer nostalgia. This motivates cereal brands to enter the foodservice space in a beverage format and move beyond the breakfast space. Again, this isn’t a terrible approach considering that Millennials are a snacking generation and a quarter of Millennials are considered super snackers (snacking four or more times a day).

Looking ahead, the trend toward incorporating cereal into a snacking/dessert occasion doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi is known as the originator of Cereal Milk, a soft serve ice cream made from cornflakes, milk, brown sugar and a pinch of salt. In November 2017, Milk Bar said it secured investment funding and plans to expand into more major cities and categories. 

The growth of Milk Bar will continue to drive the concept of cereal milk into more segments. Last April also brought an interesting partnership between Milk Bar and &Pizza, an East Coast-based fast casual pizza chain. They created Cereal Milk Cream Soda and Cereal Milk Cream Soda Cookies, exclusively for &Pizza. In addition, Milk Bar and &Pizza are moving forward with plans to launch a collaborative restaurant concept in Boston’s Harvard Square location.  

Originally appeared in the January, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as Lucky Charms.