Saturday, March 5, 2016

Cereal Business & Nostalgia

New York Times - "Cereal, a Taste of Nostalgia, Looks for Its Next Chapter"

"Breakfast cereal is a powerful engine of nostalgia — the warm, helpful kind, not the morose, depressive kind. The relationship starts with babies, who use Cheerios like Bitcoin, and stretches into old age. Almost half of all American baby boomers and nearly 40 percent of the generation born before them say the cereals they loved as children remain their favorites, according to an August 2015 report by Mintel, the global market research company.

But breakfast cereal, both as a cultural marker and a profit center, is at a crossroads. Since the late 1990s, its popularity has been slowly fading. Sales, which totaled $13.9 billion in 2000, dipped last year to about $10 billion.

Younger consumers are not as attached to cold cereal for breakfast as their forebears, analysts and cereal makers agree. They either don’t eat breakfast at all, or eat it somewhere other than home. And when they do eat breakfast, a bowl of cold cereal is often replaced by hot grains, smoothies, yogurt or breakfast sandwiches."

" Millennials are snackers, and not easily fooled by packaging or advertising, but they are as nostalgia-driven as any group of cereal eaters.

“I literally had three bowls of cereal for dinner last night,” said Christina Tosi, the New York pastry chef who founded the Milk Bar cafes and made the milk left in the bottom of a cereal bowl a culinary phenomenon by turning it into ice cream. She is a big fan of Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes.

Ms. Tosi, 34, could be considered either a member of Generation X or a millennial. Like many people her age, she thinks of cereal more as a creative outlet or a way to dip into the past than as breakfast.

Since the business began slumping in the 1990s, cereal companies have been trying to position cereal as something other than breakfast, putting it into crackers and snack bars. But Ms. Tosi, who consults for Kellogg’s, said they haven’t exploited all the various ways cereal is being used.

“They have to embrace that people love the flavor and texture of cereal and the vintage nature, but it’s not about breakfast,” Ms. Tosi said.

Ms. Tosi is not the first to play with cereal in the professional kitchen. A decade ago, the chef Ferran AdriĆ  of the innovative El Bulli restaurant in Spain poured a rich reduced seafood broth over Rice Krispies for a dish called Kellogg’s paella.

Off-market uses for cereal have seemed to accelerate recently. Last year, the Bedrock Fizz at the Eddy restaurant developed a fan base among young New Yorkers who appreciated a $16 cocktail infused with Fruity Pebbles. Trisha Yearwood, the country singer who is also a cooking celebrity, created a cocktail in which she infused milk with Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and mixed it with Fireball Cinnamon Whisky. "

. . . .

"Fancy cocktails and cutting-edge cuisine may not do much to budge sales figures. But the chefs may lend breakfast cereal some needed cachet — and visibility — if only by eating it.

Kyle Mendenhall, the executive chef of the Kitchen, a restaurant group in Boulder, Colo., likes to pour cream or whole milk over Honey Nut Cheerios, the nation’s top-selling brand.

“Every chef is probably a cereal guy,” he said, “because 90 percent of them go home at 2 in the morning and eat what’s there because they don’t want to cook anymore.”"

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