News highlights, market trends, and original data analysis related to the U.S. retail food & beverage industry … by Jay Nargundkar
That the traditional ready-to-eat (“cold”) cereal category is in trouble is not shocking news to most observers of the food industry. Category sales accelerated their ongoing decline in 2014, with breakfast-minded consumers continuing to pursue alternatives including oatmeal, Greek yogurt, and frozen waffles. This week, Bloomberg published a damning takedown of “How [category leader] Kellogg lost breakfast”, chronicling the popular shift away from the company’s iconic cereal brands.
There’s no question that Kellogg’s had a rough 2014, with sales down 7.8% over the previous year; its neck-and-neck competitor General Mills, by contrast, saw a sales decline of 3.3%, while Post Cereal in distant third place managed a 1.6% sales uptick (though its volume, like the others, also declined).
Despite the tumultuous year, there was one constant in the category. The top ten best-selling cereals, which this site cataloged last year, remain virtually the same as they did in 2013:
(Note: These ten best-selling cereals on a dollar-basis also were the ten top sellers (in a slightly shuffled order) in terms of units sold.)
Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats had an up year in the #3 spot, but it was Fruity Pebbles that was their real star — sales up 18.3%, to $123M. You will likely see Fruity Pebbles crathe top 10 in 2015. Their Cocoa Pebbles also saw a big sales jump (+14.9%). Post appears to have benefited from price increases on these cereals, as their sales growth outstripped a more modest rise in units sold.
Meanwhile, the bottom fell out of once-formidable Special K, for both the more popular Red Berries variety (sales down 12.0%) and the regular version (down a whopping 23.3%). Those two combined for only $212M in 2014 sales, compared to $255M the year before. Recognizing this mess, Kellogg’s newly installed cereal head Paul Norman announced a few months ago that Special K will be reinvented in 2015 with new packaging and a focus on nutrients (e.g. protein) instead of its old weight-loss message.
The other particularly notable bad year was had by Multigrain Cheerios, with sales down to $99.9M, 21.3% less than in the prior year. That disaster, along with less severe declines in Honey Nut, regular, Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate, and other flavors explains General Mills’ recent decision to convert several Cheerios varieties to gluten-free starting in fall 2015. They will hope to get a similar boost from going gluten-free as they did with their Chex line in 2010.