Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US Hot and Cold Cereal market including the behaviors, preferences, and habits of the consumer.

The vast majority of parents are interested in healthier kids’ cereals. 81% of parents whose households eat cereal agree that they would be interested in cereal formulated for children’s nutrition and 77% agree they wish there were healthier cereals for their children. Investments in healthier kid-focused formulations, such as those featuring reduced sugar, added protein or added fiber, are an opportunity across the category but will fill a specific gap in the kids’ cereal space.

The COVID-19 pandemic initially provided the cereal market with a strong dollar sales boost, as consumers shifted to spending mornings at home, opening more time for at-home breakfast. One of the biggest threats to the hot and cold cereal market will be the return of away-from-home breakfast. As consumers learn, work and eat away from home, more portable and on-the-go breakfast options, including snack, nutrition and performance bars and those from foodservice operators, will benefit. The category can take heart in the fact that remote working is here to stay for a share of consumers, and brands can position cereal as an easy, at-home breakfast for busy remote workers.

Snacking continues to be one of the biggest opportunities for the hot and cold cereal market, especially as the category loses breakfast relevance in 2021. Single-serving and portable formats will be important to snackers and an important focus for brands. However, category players will want to align their portfolios and positioning with different snacking dayparts, as consumers seek out different product attributes throughout the day.

Read on to discover more about the US Hot and Cold Cereal consumer market, read our Breakfast Eating Habits: Inc Impact of COVID-19 – UK – October 2020 report, or take a look at our other Breakfast Cereal Market Research research reports.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the hot and cold cereal market.
  • Hot and cold cereal shopping behaviors.
  • Attitudes towards hot and cold cereal health and flavor.
  • Interest in innovation from hot and cold cereal brands.

Covered in this report

Brands include: Post Holding, General Mills, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, RXBar, Kind, Larabar, Trix, Frosted Flakes, TikTok, Magic Spoon, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cheerios, Purely Elizabeth, Kodiak, Bob’s Red Mill, Mush, Bear Naked Fit, RX Cereal, Kind, Kashi Go, Wonderworks, Three Wishes, Post, Magic Spoon, Dunkaroos, Sesame Street 123, Nature’s Path Envirokidz, Purely Elizabeth, Del Monte Oats to Go, Fiber One, Cap’n Crunch, Muesli.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Kaitlin Kamp, a leading analyst in the Food and Drink sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The $11.1 billion hot and cold cereal market is expected to face a 3.8% dollar sales decline in 2021 as consumers shift their breakfast routines outside the home. Still, prolonged remote working will enable cereal brands to position themselves as an easy, at-home breakfast during the workweek. Long-term stagnation is expected through 2026 but can be disrupted if category players focus on the snacking occasion and invest in healthful positioning. Better-for-you kids’ cereals in particular will be a driving force for brands that get there first.

Kaitlin Kamp, Food and Drink Analyst
Kaitlin Kamp
Food and Drink Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • This Report looks at the following areas
    • Definition
    • Market context
    • Economic and other assumptions
    • COVID-19: US context
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Market overview
      • Figure 1: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of hot and cold cereal, at current prices, 2016-26
    • Impact of COVID-19 on hot and cold cereal
      • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on hot and cold cereal, 2021
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • At-home breakfast will wane
    • Double down on remote workers and snacking occasions
      • Figure 3: Cereal usage, net any cereal, 2021
    • Health is desired, especially in kids’ cereals
      • Figure 4: Net cereal attitudes – parents, 2021
    • Make healthful improvements or recommend the right pairings
      • Figure 5: Cereal innovation to motivate trial, 2021
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • Dollar sales expected to decline 3.8% in 2021 before stagnating
    • Hot cereal segment will benefit from health aspirations
    • Remote working opens doors for convenient at-home breakfast
    • Foodservice will steal a share of breakfast eaters
  4. Market Size and Forecast

    • 2021 dollar sales of cereal expected to decline 3.8% from their 2020 peak
      • Figure 6: Total US sales and fan chart forecast of hot and cold cereal, at current prices, 2016-26
      • Figure 7: Total US sales and forecast of hot and cold cereal, at current prices, 2016-26
      • Source: based on IRI InfoScan® Reviews; US Census Bureau, Economic Census/Mintel
  5. Market Factors

    • Breakfast behaviors will remain in-flux in 2021
    • COVID-19 kickstarted breakfast at-home
    • Cooking fatigue will dim scratch breakfast, enhance opportunity for convenience options
      • Figure 9: Breakfast consumption since pandemic restrictions, 2020
    • Cater to consumers contending with prolonged hybrid work situations
      • Figure 10: Expected work situation in 2021, 2021
    • Some will return to foodservice
      • Figure 11: Anticipated change in ordering breakfast from a foodservice operator in 2022, 2021
    • Morning foods are meant to be energizing and easy; evening foods can be indulgent and sweet
      • Figure 12: Food and drink attributes sought by occasion – meals, 2021
    • Post Foods $15m class action settlement proves sugar concerns haven’t subsided
    • Shrinkflation could trigger trading down
      • Figure 13: Cinnamon toast crunch product examples
  6. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Sales slip across the leaderboard but healthful product lines persist
    • Cereal and bar brands take pages from each other’s playbooks
    • Brands take on TikTok to reach the next generation of cereal eaters
    • Lost breakfast occasions warrant a focus on snacking
    • Extend BFY innovation into kids’ cereal
    • Go all-in on pairings
  7. Market Share

    • Leaders face dollar declines as demand falls; healthful products are a bright spot
    • BFY brands are fueling growth across the leaderboard
      • Figure 14: Multi-outlet sales of hot and cold cereal, by leading companies, rolling 52 weeks 2020 and 2021
  8. Competitive Strategies

    • Nutrition bars power into cereal
      • Figure 15: Cereal launches from brands with snack, nutrition and performance bars
      • Figure 16: Kid-friendly snack, nutrition and performance bar product launches
    • High-protein, low-carb cereals gain steam
      • Figure 17: High-protein, low-carb cereal product launches
    • Approaches to nostalgia: reboots, co-branding and LTOs
      • Figure 18: Nostalgic cereal product launches
    • Kellogg’s works towards inclusivity via packaging
      • Figure 19: Kellogg’s product launches
    • TikTok campaigns aim to make cereal the Gen Z breakfast
      • Figure 20: Magic Spoon Instagram post
  9. Market Opportunities

    • Changing breakfast behaviors make snack time the occasion to win
    • Morning snacks should be energizing, easy
    • Afternoon snacks can add sweetness to the mix
    • Evening snacks can be sweet, indulgent
      • Figure 21: Cereal product launches with snack messaging
      • Figure 22: Food and drink attributes sought by occasion – snacks, 2021
    • Formulate for children’s physical and cognitive development
      • Figure 23: Kid-friendly, BFY cereal launches
    • Recommend pairings to boost nutrition, taste and satiety
      • Figure 24: Cereal product launches promoting additional toppings and ingredients
  10. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Oats and granola pick up steam
    • 89% of cereal consumers pair cereal with other food/drinks
    • Breakfast is popular, but snacking can drive growth
    • Facilitate out-of-store discovery and experimentation
    • Parents are eager for healthier kid-friendly cereals
    • BFY formulations are the innovation gap that needs filling
  11. Cereal Consumption

    • Lightly sweetened remains most popular but loses some steam
      • Figure 25: Household cereal consumption, 2021
      • Figure 26: Change in household cereal consumption, 2020-21
    • Households with kids overindex in nearly all cereal types
      • Figure 27: Household cereal consumption, by households with children of any age, 2021
    • Consider economy sizing for some cereal types
      • Figure 28: Household cereal consumption, by household size, 2021
  12. Cereal Pairings

    • Nearly all cereal consumers add other ingredients to cereal
      • Figure 29: Cereal pairings, 2021
    • Healthful cereals welcome healthful additions
      • Figure 30: Cereal pairings, by cereal consumption, 2021
    • Oats welcome a variety of pairings
      • Figure 31: Cereal pairings, by hot cereal consumption, 2021
  13. Cereal Usage

    • Breakfast dominates; snacking has room to grow
    • Granola has on-the-go snacking potential
      • Figure 32: Cereal usage, by cereal type, 2021
    • Households with children go outside the box with cereal usage
      • Figure 33: Cereal usage – net – any cereal, by number of children of any age in household, 2021
    • Hispanic households are snacking on cereal
      • Figure 34: Cereal usage – net – any cereal, by Hispanic origin and gender, 2021
  14. Cereal Shopping Behaviors

    • Cereal shoppers lean on past purchases and value in-store
      • Figure 35: Cereal shopping behaviors, 2021
    • Older consumers are habitual; younger consumers experimental
      • Figure 36: Cereal shopping behaviors, by age, 2021
    • Parents are more likely to browse
      • Figure 37: Cereal shopping behaviors, by parental status, 2021
    • Those in difficult financial situations are more willing to shop for deals
      • Figure 38: Cereal shopping behaviors, by financial situation, 2021
  15. Parents’ Attitudes toward Cereal

    • Parents want healthier cereals for their kids
      • Figure 39: Cereal attitudes – kids and cereal – net – agree nets, 2021
    • Dads are especially interested in healthier options for their kids
      • Figure 40: Cereal attitudes – kids and cereal – net – any agree, by parental status and gender, 2021
  16. Cereal Flavor Attitudes

    • Both new and old flavors are welcome
      • Figure 41: Cereal attitudes – flavor – net – any agree, 2021
    • 18-24s are less willing to compromise flavor for health
      • Figure 42: Cereal attitudes – flavor –net – any agree, by age, 2021
    • Healthy version of childhood favorites will entice men
      • Figure 43: Cereal attitudes – flavor – net – any agree, by gender, 2021
      • Figure 44: BFY cereal Instagram posts
  17. Interest in Cereal Innovation

    • Give cereals a BFY boost
      • Figure 45: Interest in cereal innovation, 2021
    • Younger consumers drawn to “soft” health claims and flavor innovation
      • Figure 46: Interest in cereal innovation, by age, 2021
    • Women desire more nutrients, less sugar
      • Figure 47: Interest in cereal innovation, by gender, 2021
      • Figure 48: BFY cereal Instagram posts
  18. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Sales data
    • Forecast
    • Consumer survey data
    • Consumer qualitative research
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations
  19. Appendix – The Market

      • Figure 49: Total US retail sales and forecast of hot and cold cereal, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2016-26
      • Figure 50: Average household spending on hot and cold cereal, 2016-21
      • Figure 51: Total US retail sales of hot and cold cereal, by segment, at current prices, 2019 and 2021
      • Figure 52: Total US retail sales and forecast of cold cereal, at current prices, 2016-26
      • Figure 53: Total US retail sales and forecast of cold cereal, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2016-26
      • Figure 54: Total US retail sales and forecast of hot cereal, at current prices, 2016-26
      • Figure 55: Total US retail sales and forecast of hot cereal, at inflation-adjusted prices, 2016-26
  20. Appendix – Retail Channels

      • Figure 56: Total US retail sales of hot and cold cereal, by channel, at current prices, 2016-21
      • Figure 57: Total US retail sales of hot and cold cereal, by channel, at current prices, 2019 and 2021
  21. Appendix – Companies and Brands

      • Figure 58: Multi-outlet sales of cold cereal, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2020 and 2021
      • Figure 59: Multi-outlet sales of hot cereal, by leading companies and brands, rolling 52 weeks 2020 and 2021

About the report

This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.


Mintel provides a range of market information, frequently through the category level, including market size and forecasting, complete with market drivers that illustrate the forces that shape a category or market.


Mintel’s proprietary consumer research provides our analysts with the attitudinal and behavioral data used to provide valuable insight to topical issues.


Mintel provides overviews of the top brands and manufacturers, and uses consumer research to explore attitudes and reactions to brands, as well as insight into what will resonate with consumers.


Market reports provide appendices of data to support the research and insight produced. Our tables of data are easily manipulated and downloadable to support your research needs and covers factors from consumer attitudes to market forecasts.

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