The four dimensions of cereal

by Jeff Gelski
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Cereal with flakes and fruit
When shown photographs of cereal, people tended to like cereal with fruit more than cereal alone.

SAVANNAH, GA. — Sensory cues in ready-to-eat cereal may trigger emotions, like comfort and delight, in consumers. The cues also might have consumers perceiving health and wellness benefits, said Gail V. Civille, president of Sensory Spectrum, Inc.

“Texture is signaling certain types of benefits to me, and flavor is signaling certain types of pleasure to me,” she said in reference to consumers in an Oct. 24 presentation at the AACC International annual meeting in Savannah.

Companies should understand how specific cereals make consumers feel, she said. Doing so will allow companies to promote the cereal in ways that grab consumers’ attention, playing to their perceptions of emotions and health benefits.

Consumers view flakes as more exiting and interesting than puff cereals, she said. Flavors may make them feel content. Flavors may be calming and comforting.

Ancient grain cereal
A cereal with ancient grains gives consumers a greater sense of the cereal being crunchier, more nutritious and more exciting.

“So (consumers are) not just talking about the sensory properties that they perceive,” Ms. Civille said. “They are talking about how the cereal makes them feel.”

She said Sensory Spectrum, after conducting an on-line survey, divided R.-T.-E. cereal into four dimensions: sensory delight, health and fiber, sensory diversity and contrast, and weight management and heart health.

For the first dimension, flakes with fruit played more into people’s need for sensory pleasure, she said. When shown photographs of cereal, people tended to like clusters and cereal with fruit more than puff cereal alone or flake cereal alone.

Ancient grains may provide benefits in the second element — health and fiber.

Cereal with flakes and clusters
Consumers may view flakes with clusters as having more to do with heart health and weight control.

“The type of grains matter in the sense of understanding of fiber,” Ms. Civille said.

A cereal with ancient grains gives consumers a greater sense of the cereal being crunchier, more nutritious and more exciting.

For the third dimension, flakes and puffs together are one way to provide sensory diversity and contrast. For the fourth dimension, consumers may view flakes with clusters as having more to do with heart health and weight control. 
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