Consuming Issues: Porridge – a cereal thriller
Saturday 20 February 2010
Over the past two months press releases have been popping into journalists' inboxes with one recurring message: porridge sales have glooped into orbit. Manufacturers and retailers recorded rises of up to 70 per cent during the cold snap when shoppers sought a warming bowl for breakfast.
To nutritionists, porridge is the perfect start to the day; full of fibre, vitamins and minerals. To consumers, too, porridge is a good buy, working out cheaper than less filling cereals made by the likes of Kellogg's or Nestle.
Consumers who pulled oats from the shelves when snow blanketed the ground, however, are unlikely to abandon their daily bowl of Weetabix, Special K or Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, the three best-selling cereal brands. Despite the recent surge, porridge accounts for just a fraction of the breakfast cereal market.
A new report from market researchers Mintel shows that 90 per cent of cereal we pour in our bowls comes into the category known as RTE, or ready-to-eat. These brands require no more effort than pouring milk on to a serving.
Overall, people in the UK spent £1.2bn on ready-to-eat cereals last year, and the biggest category was "kids" cereals such as Coco Pops, Sugar Puffs and Mega Munchers, taking a whopping 43 per cent of sales.
The second biggest category was "naturally good" cereals such as muesli from Jordans, Dorset and Alpen, and other "healthy" brands such as Special K. They made up 30 per cent, ahead of adult "favourites", such as Corn Flakes, which accounted for 19 per cent.
By contrast, hot cereals like Ready Brek and porridge had sales of a comparatively small £134m. So why are do these lag so far behind? Firstly, manufacturers have failed to do much to promote the healthiness and cheapness of porridge in recent years, instead relying on older customers who can be bothered to heat up oats with milk or water.
Secondly, companies like Kellogg's have spent, and continue to spend, millions of pounds advertising their brands, including offering up an array of cartoon characters, gifts and other promotions to command the attention of the most important target group of consumers; children.
Coco Pops' advertisements on bus shelters and television recently suggested children try the 35 per cent sugar cereal as an after-school snack. That angered health campaigners and parents because it seemed to contradict Kellogg's public commitment to work with the Government to reduce child obesity. And it is this new focus on health that could turn porridge from an also-ran into a winner.
Mintel forecasts sales of ready-to-eat cereals will continue to increase, rising by 14 per cent to £1.69bn by 2014, but it predicts hot cereals will start to catch up, rising by 19 per cent to £160m over the same period.
According to Mintel, porridge would become much more popular if it was easy to prepare. Future launches, it suggested, "could include the introduction of more ready-prepared porridge ranges with the milk already mixed in. These could therefore be quickly heated in a microwave, and would suit on-the-go breakfast consumption and the on-the-go packs could be sold together with a spoon."
It added: "A wider selection of these chilled porridge formats could be stocked in the other grocery multiples, especially in their convenience store formats such as Tesco Express or Sainsbury's Local."
So, with Britons unable, or unwilling, to spend a few minutes stirring oats in a pan, the market will have to adapt to their laziness. As a result, the breakfast of the mid-21st century could look like it did a century earlier: porridge.
Heroes & Villians
Hero: Kelham Island Tavern
Although pubs sometimes serve up over-priced microwave meals at prices dodgier than the old ale pulled from their pumps, that charge can't be levelled at the Kelham Island Tavern in Sheffield. For the second year running, the Victorian inn has been named National Pub of the Year by Camra.
The real beer campaign's 110,000 members assessed "all the criteria that make a good pub" including the quality of the beer, atmosphere, décor, customer service, and all-round value of the pub visit.
The Kelham has 10 hand pumps, two of which dispense a mild and a stout. It appears it also tried quite hard to win. The landlord Trevor Wraith said: "Winning last year only made us work harder to meet and beat people's expectations, with people travelling from all over the UK to visit us." The cream on top of the tale is that the pub was rescued from dereliction as recently as 2002.
Villains: Home sellers
The Office of Fair Trading's study into home sales this week found that almost a third of homeowners, 32 per cent, felt the fees they were charged by estate agents for selling a home were "slightly" or "very poor" value for money. However, the OFT also found that almost two-thirds of sellers, 64 per cent, failed to negotiate an agent's commission. So if sellers can't be bothered to negotiate a good deal, they can't complain if they pay over the odds.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
Consumers given power to choose a green deal
Mark Dampier: A safe harbour if the market recovery has overreached itself
'Scrap the trap': calls for change grow as banks are told to play fair with loyal savers
Bargain Hunter: Eurostar offers child fares for £1 each way to Paris, Brussels and Lille
Relaxed pensions rules: Guide to what they mean to you
- 2 Loom bands: Bids for dress made from colourful rubber pass £170,000 on eBay
- 3 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
iJobs Money & Business
£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...
£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...
£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...
£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...
Day In a Page
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar
A newly refurbished one-bedroom flat in the heart of Mayfair, close to Grosvenor Square