The never-ending variety of breakfast cereal

Cereal tenure:

The below chart shows how long each cereal has lasted on the market. We can see the ~half of all cereals have been on the market for 5 years or less before being discontinued.

cereal tenure

Note that 5 (3.4%) cereals in the 0-5 yr bin are still currently available, meaning they could last longer than 5 years before being discontinued. However, more new cereals will likely also be created by that time, keeping the % of cereals active 5 yrs or less ~the same.

New cereals launched by decade:

Here we can see the over half of all cereals have been launched after 1980. We can also see that cereal biz was booming in the 2000s, posting a record ~88 new cereals launched. Things seem to be cooling off 2010-2020, with 42 new cereals launched through 2018 (putting us on pace for ~53 total launches in decade).

cereal launches

Why are manufacturers pushing out endless varieties of new cereals?

The next logical question to ask when coming across all if this information is ‘why are manufacturers producing a seemingly endless amount of cereal variety’?

Most speculate that this is due to manufacturers trying to combat the general stagnation in the breakfast cereal market. Below are a few strategies that seem to be in place to try and keep cereal sales high:

(1) Bring the millennials back by re-launching their old favorites:

NY times posted a popular article earlier this year discussing the declining interest, particularly amongst millennials, in breakfast cereal; the article explained that in recent surveys, over 40% of millennials opted out of breakfast cereal because of the hassle (time + mess to clean up after). Manufacturers, as a result, have been trying to lure millennials back in with nostalgic favorites, such as French Toast Crunch.

(2) Join the health/psuedo-health wave by offering healthier varieties:

As writes, yogurt sales have skyrocketed in the past ~10 years whereas breakfast cereal sales have remained flat. Many speculate this is due to yogurt being a natural convenient and healthy breakfast choice. Since cereal again cannot really change its convenience level (unless you’re on team dry cereal), it seems they may be taking the health angle, rebranding and renaming many existing cereals with buzzwords such as gluten-free, organic, all-natural, etc.

(3) Design short-tenured cereals intentionally for promotional reasons

If you check some of the more recent short-tenured cereals in the list below, you’ll see a lot of them are intentionally designed to be on the market for a limited time; they are either being promoted as ‘limited edition’ items, or are associated with some TV show/movie. I’d guess these types of cereals generate a nice jump in sales and lure consumers to buy outside of regular habits.