With the Covid-19 pandemic winding down, US breakfast cereal and bar innovation grew while hot cereal launched cooled during 2022.

Per the Innova Database of new products, snack bar new product introductions (cereal and energy bars) grew more than 6% while cold cereal launches expanded by more than 2% during the first 11 months of 2022 versus the same period in 2021. Hot cereal launches declined by around 10% during the same period.

Two trends that have fueled past product development—plant-based and the keto/ketogenic diet trend –showed mixed results in 2022. 


Cereal (hot or cold) products and bars identified as “plant-based” dipped to 16% of all new product introductions during the first 11 months of 2022. That’s down from just under 20% of launches for the same period the year before.

Launches addressing the “keto/ketogenic” diet trend rose to 8.7% of combined new cereal (including hot or cold) and bar introductions during the first 11 months of 2022. That’s up from 6.5% of similar new product launches during the full year 2021.

Cereal: Let’s Go Bowling

The “fun factor” returned to cold cereal in 2022. General Mills, Minneapolis, introduced Hot Wheels Fruity Flavored Sweetened Corn Cereal, Lucky Charms S’Mores Cereal and IHOP Mini Pancake Cereal. Similarly, Belgian Boys, New York, N.Y., also partnered with a Minneapolis company—Target—on an exclusive Belgian Boys Pancake Cereal. A 9.87oz box contains four pre-packaged servings and retails for $5.79. Portions are microwavable or can be warmed up in a skillet. 

Kellogg Company, Battle Creek, Mich., chimed in with Little Debbie Nutty Buddy Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cereal, Froot Loops Color Mix-Ups Cereal. Kellogg’s went to the movies with Pandora Flakes Cereal (Avatar) as well as Kellogg’s® Disney Hocus Pocus 2 cereal. In a nod to Nickelodeon, it also launched Kellogg’s Apple Jacks Slime.  

Speaking of Disney, Post Consumer Brands joined the “Disney 100 Years of Wonder” celebration with the launch of multiple, limited-edition offerings. Post worked with Disney to create a one-of-a-kind themed fruity cereal, a new-to-market confetti cake flavored cereal and a special edition collector’s cereal item.

Quaker Oats’ parent Pepsico perhaps had the most fun with its Tropicana Crunch “Cereal made for OJ” stunt. Debuting on “national orange juice day” the honey and almond cereal was supposedly meant to be eaten with orange juice instead of milk.

Interestingly, Kellogg also applied alternative liquid logic. Last September, it introduced Kellogg’s Instabowls, a line of 1.8oz bowls with Kellogg’s signature brands including Frosted Flakes, Froot Loops Apple Jacks and Raisin Bran Crunch. Instabowls do not require milk—as just water will do. Per Kellogg’s proprietary research, consumers reportedly found it easier to get their hands on water rather than milk and the water quickly mixes with real mix powder.

On a more nutritional note, General Mills debuted Plentifull Peanut Butter Coated Flakes with Nut and Seed Clusters. The new brand has a whopping 32g of whole grains per serving. “Whole grain,” in fact, was 2022’s top health claim for cold cereal, per the Innova Database of new products.

Sugar reduction—45% less sugar, to be exact—was achieved with General Mills’ Nature Valley Reduced Sugar Cinnamon Granola. General Mills also took its Ratio brand into cereal with Ratio Keto Friendly Toasted Almond Granola. Kellogg’s RXBAR also shook up the granola cereal market in January 2023 with RXBAR Granola, “packed with distinctive, simple ingredients and 10g of protein per serving.”

In another interesting texture twist, Quaker Oats introduced Puffed Granola, which combines whole grain Quaker oat with crispy rice puffs. It comes in two flavors: Blueberry Vanilla and Apple Cinnamon.

Also aiming for 2023 impact, Kellogg introduced Special K High Protein (Chocolate Almond) with 20g of protein per serving along with real almonds. It also launched Special K Zero cereal puffs (Cinnamon flavor) with 0g of sugar, 18g of plant-based protein and two net carbs.

How about another functional twist? This January saw Post Consumer Brands also introduce two varieties of Sweet Dreams Cereal. New Blueberry Midnight and Honey Moonglow flavors each feature whole grains, and an herbal blend containing a touch of lavender and chamomile. Post says it provides an excellent source of vitamin E and incudes curated vitamins and minerals like zinc, folic acid and B vitamins “to support natural melatonin production.”

Going forward, look for more cereal makers to add adaptogen ingredients. Last spring saw Adapto Foods, Boulder, Colo., introduce five functional shelf-stable oatmeals with functional mushroom and botanical adaptogens. The 2.1oz cups come in different flavor varieties and are named as Clarity, Harmony, Vital, Hale & Hardy, and Upbeat.

Raise the Bar

Snack bar launches went in many different directions in 2022 including a focus on energy-enhancement and immunity. 

Focused on energy is Verb Energy Inc., New York, N.Y., which debuted in Costco stores this past December after years of online sales. The company’s vegan Caffeinated Energy Bars are made with organic green tea (80mg) and packaging notes that each 0.92oz bar equals a cup of espresso. Balanced Tiger LLC, Miami, debuted last summer with four functional vegan protein bars—all featuring mushroom extract. The line includes Energy (Cordyceps), Focus (Lions Mane), Immunity (Chaga), and Balance (Reishi)

As Covid-19 faded during 2022, Kellogg sensed an opportunity for better tasting, on-the-go protein bars, debuting Special K Protein Snack Bars, each with 6g of protein and just 90 calories. In other moves, Kellogg’s RXBAR went after breakfast with RXBAR A.M., a new soft and crispy bar with 10g of protein and a “few simple ingredients” like soft-rolled oats. 

Mars Incorporated, a brand known for Snicker’s candy bars, also entered the protein space. It closed last year with new Snicker’s “performance nutrition” bar delivering 20g of protein in a 2oz bar.

Grain-free cereal specialist Magic Spoon Inc., New York, N.Y., took its ready-to-eat breakfast cereal brand into bars with a keto-friendly offering. Each 1.4oz bar delivers 10g of protein, 130 calories, and just 1g of total sugar. Varieties include S'mores, Cinnamon Roll, Cookies and Cream, and Cocoa Peanut Butter

Moving in a more fun and indulgent direction, General Mills Convenience created a King Size Chex Mix Bar for convenience stores. It says the “indulgent treat” bars feature a sweet foundation with sweet and salty mix-ins like Chex cereal, cookie pieces, pretzels and peanut butter chips. The 2.2oz bars come in Cookies & Cream and Peanut Butter Chocolate varieties.

General Mills also shifted three other snack bar brands in a more indulgent direction. Annie’s Organic, Larabar, and Nature Valley. Nature Valley launched Crunchy Dipped Granola Squares while Annie’s added Dipped Granola Bars. Larabar went indulgent with flavors such as Chocolate Peanut Caramel Truffle.

Chilled bars have emerged as a growing niche. One company joining the fun last spring was San Diego’s Mooski Snacks. It launched refrigerated, vegan, gluten-free granola bars featuring soaked oats, nut butter and dried fruit—all dipped in dairy-free dark chocolate. The 1.59oz bars debuted in five flavors:  

Peanut Butter Banana, Chocolate Peanut Crunch, Wild Berry, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, and Apple Cinnamon.

Another category addition is Los Angeles’ Ittella International, LLC. The company is better known as the Tattooed Chef with its range of frozen vegan, vegetarian and organic entrées. This January, it branched the refrigerated case with four Non-GMO Project Verified Oat Butter Bars. Each contains 12g-14g of plant-based pea protein, no added sugars, no soy, and no gluten. Varieties are Chocolate Chip, Brownie, Peanut, and Graham.

Tom Vierhile is Vice President Strategic Insights, North America for the Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights and has more than 20 years of experience in new consumer packaged goods reporting and analysis. Tom holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from St. Bonaventure University and an MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  Follow him on Twitter at @TomVierhile.