Making cereal more satisfying

by Jeff Gelski
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Getting more people to fill up on cereal at breakfast may be linked to keeping them full all morning long. Adding tree nuts, oats and other forms of fiber may provide cereal with satiety benefits.

The cereal category has faced competition recently as more restaurants offer breakfast options and more consumers choose Greek yogurt, according to the report “Cereal killers — Five trends revolutionizing the American breakfast” released May 21, 2013, by Rabobank, New York.

“Flat sales and declining volumes over the past decade indicate consumers are tiring of boxed cereals,” said Nicholas Fereday, an analyst with Rabobank. “They are being lured away by more contemporary, aspirational and convenient morning eating options in other grocery aisles or restaurants.”

Recent data from Information Resources, Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm, supports the Rabobank report. In the 52 weeks ended Nov. 3, 2013, U.S. dollar sales of ready-to-eat cereal were $9,293,050,000, down 2.5% from the previous 52-week period, and unit sales were 2,903,038,000, down 2%.

Cereal companies wanting to invigorate sales through a satiety strategy may wish to investigate tree nuts.

A study from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., focused on a specific tree nut. Researchers found eating 1.5 oz of almonds every day reduced hunger, improved dietary vitamin E and monounsaturated fat intake, and tended to have a favorable effect on blood glucose response without increasing calorie intake or body weight. The study included 137 adults with increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

People were divided into five groups: a control group that avoided all nuts and seeds, a breakfast meal group and a lunch meal group that ate 1.5 oz of almonds each day, and a morning snack group and an afternoon snack group that consumed 1.5 oz of almonds between meals.

The people who ate almonds consumed about 250 additional calories per day from almonds, but they did not increase the total number of calories they ate and drank over the course of the day nor did they gain weight over the course of the four-week study.

“In this study, we learned that in addition to naturally compensating for the additional calories, participants experienced reduced hunger levels and desire to eat at subsequent meals, particularly when almonds were eaten as a snack,” said Richard Mattes, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition science at Purdue and the study’s principal investigator.

The study appeared on-line Oct. 2, 2013, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The Almond Board of California, Modesto, Calif., funded the study.

According to another study from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif., tree nuts appear to have a strong inverse association with obesity and a favorable, though weaker, association with metabolic syndrome independent of demographic, lifestyle and dietary factors. The study appeared in the Jan. 8, 2014, issue of PLOS/One.

A cross-sectional analysis was conducted on data of 803 adults. Subjects were classified by intake of total nuts, tree nuts and peanuts. Frequency of nut intake had significant inverse associations with metabolic syndrome (3% less for tree nuts and 2% less for total nuts) and obesity (7% less for tree nuts and 3% less for total nuts).

A grant from the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research for Education Foundation, Davis, Calif., supported the study as did the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute. The International Tree Nut Council lists almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts as kinds of tree nuts.

Almonds already have appeared in cereal introductions in 2014. General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, included a cranberry almond variety in its Fiber One Protein cereal. Post Foods, L.L.C., Parsippany, N.J., has a Chocolatey Almond Crunch variety and a Cinnamon Crunch variety in its new Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy.

“When it comes to breakfast, consumers are looking for options that provide protein, fiber and whole grain to satisfy their appetite and help reduce mid-morning hunger,” said Derek Schwendinger, marketing director, Honey Bunches of Oats at Post Foods, when the cereals were introduced Jan. 28. “We’re excited to meet those needs with new Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy.”

The Quaker Oats Center of Excellence promoted satiety effects associated with oatmeal at Experimental Biology 2013 in Boston last April. A study conducted by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, La., found people who had oatmeal at breakfast ate about 85 fewer calories at their next meal when compared to people who ate an oat-based, ready-to-eat cereal at breakfast.

“We are encouraged by this research because it shows that an oatmeal breakfast can be an effective strategy to help people feel full during that typically challenging time frame between breakfast and lunch,” said Marianne O’Shea, senior director — PepsiCo R.&D. Nutrition. “With the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence, we aim to build upon established oat science to explore new benefits that will help consumers. It’s clear there is more to discover when it comes to the true potential of the oats and all it can do.”

The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., has promoted its fiber-packed cereals as a way to fill up in the morning. Last year the company pointed to U.S. Department of Agriculture data showing 9 out of 10 children do not have enough fiber in their diet.

Still, cereal sales were not that strong for Kellogg in the fiscal year ended Dec. 28, 2013. The company on Feb. 6, 2014, reported fiscal-year internal net sales in its U.S. Morning Foods segment fell nearly 2%. The Kellogg Co. continues to face challenges in some of its developed cereal business, said John Bryant, president and chief executive officer.
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