Archive for Monday, January 6, 2014

Cereal: an endangered breakfast option?

January 6, 2014

I am well aware that the world is changing rapidly, and there isn’t much that shocks or surprises me anymore. Yet, I must confess that it came as a real jolt when I read that cold breakfast cereal sales were falling rapidly and some cereal companies were contemplating dropping long-time, familiar brands. One “expert” predicted that in a couple of decades, cold breakfast cereals would join typewriters, buggy whips and running boards as relics from a bygone era.

It seems that the sale of cold breakfast cereals has been dropping 2 to 3 percent annually. While there are several billion boxes sold annually, many younger people regard cold breakfast cereal as something from “grandmother and grandfather’s generation.” Of course, the popularity of breakfast as a meal is tanking. One study reported that about half of Americans do not eat breakfast, which many regard as the most important meal of the day. Another study showed that Americans spent only an average of 13 minutes a day preparing breakfast.

Breakfast is a very important meal for me. Usually I’m not up for half an hour before I’m enjoying a bowl of cereal or toast. Before the advent of cereal, most breakfasts consisted of meat and breads.

One of the reasons given for the drop in popularity of cold breakfast cereals is that there are tastier alternative toasted items. Now we have the choice of microwavable entrées. In many cases, folks stop at fast food restaurants on the way to work or buy a latte and something sweet to nibble on while battling traffic. Cold breakfast cereals may just become a victim of our changing, hurry-up, commuter lifestyle.

What really shocked me was the list of endangered cereals including corn flakes, Rice Krispies and Cheerios. I find it hard to imagine a holiday season without marshmallow Rice Krispies treats. I wonder how many kids have melted marshmallows and mixed with the snap, crackle and pop cereal as their first baking project. It is a quick way to have something ready at the last minute for a treat for the scouts or other groups.

I remember watching my daughters and grandchildren as babies sitting in their high chair struggling to capture a Cheerio. They aren’t just good for babies to nibble on, as they help develop hand-eye coordination.

In my case, after my mother died, a box of cereal, milk and sugar was all you needed for breakfast. Yes, I probably used too much sugar, but it got my day started. After all, I thought that if it was good enough for the Lone Ranger, it was good enough for me.

Probably the first breakfast cereal was developed by an immigrant, Ferdinand Schumacher, who concocted what would become oatmeal. John Harvey Kellogg was the resident physician at a health clinic in Battle Creek, Mich., and with his brother, Will, experimented with cereal-type products and discovered they could form wheat flakes and developed a cereal “Granose.” The partnership split, and Will had the patent for corn flakes.

As the popularity of cereals spread, C. W. Post soon was marketing a variety of breakfast treats. Later General Mills entered the market and the type and variety of breakfast cereals climbed. Since most of the early development of breakfast cereals was in Battle Creek, Mich., it became known as the “cereal capital” of the United States. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, cold cereals were successfully introduced in Europe.

Now, changing times and lifestyles may soon bring a cutback to the cereal selection. In my opinion, that would be very sad and the loss of a tradition. But I will survive and enjoy breakfast as long as we have eggs and toast — I don’t think that hens will permanently stop providing eggs.

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