The battle for breakfast is on, and if you work in foodservice, prepare to update your restaurant and catering service menus with the latest rising star in the food industry: Hot oatmeal. That’s right! Not only have all-day breakfast menus and brunch become a financial boon for eateries that rise to the occasion, but hot cereals, especially oats, are proliferating and claiming the unlikely top spot.
With the global oatmeal market expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.2% between 2019-2027, to the sweet tune of over $2.2 billion, now is the time to respond to consumer demand and cash in on this lucrative opportunity.
Factors Revitalizing the Hot Breakfast Cereal Market
While cold cereal sales have experienced a dip in light of growing consumer preferences for healthier, unsweetened foods and beverages, hot cereal sales are booming, designed to cater to the on-the-go, health-conscious public who care about convenience, nutrition-rich ingredients, and adventurous taste experiences. Answering their call are some of the biggest names in the industry. Featuring new-and-improved single-serving cups of oatmeal that require the mere addition of water and moments in the microwave, the four leading hot cereal suppliers — Quaker, Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, B&G, and Post, are all reporting sales growth with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
New Flavors Fuel Hot Cereal Sales
If you are looking for a way to gain a prominent position in the breakfast space, look no further than adding a range of flavorful hot oatmeal options to your menu.
Simply follow in the footsteps of the big guns whose offerings now include both classic and modern flavors. Some consumer favorites include zesty pineapple coconut and cranberry orange, organic varieties that add dates, almonds, maple, chia seeds, quinoa, buckwheat, flax, amaranth, whey protein, ancient grain blends, and exotic fruits and spices, as well as gluten-free oatmeal that caters to customers with special dietary needs.
Not to be out-performed in the increasingly competitive market, smaller companies have begun to launch their own signature products with innovations such as Nature’s Path’s Coconut Cashew Oatmeal, Straw Propeller’s Moroccan Spice and Indian Curry, and Purely Elizabeth’s Raspberry Pitaya.
How Your Restaurant Can Stand Out from the Breakfast Pack
If you are looking for a recipe for foodservice success and for ways to differentiate and become a leader of the pack, here are some practical, research-backed suggestions with tremendous opportunity for restaurant growth and sustainability.
Lower the Sugar
According to Mintel’s 2018 “Fixing the Cereal Category” report, over 40% of consumers believe that sugars are the source of calories likely to cause weight gain. To capture a bigger section of the market, be sure to offer low-sugar oatmeal options while your chefs experiment with innovative ways to also maintain sweetness and good taste. Promising candidates include natural ingredients such as dried fruit, coconut sugar, and honey, as well as taste modulators that help create preferred tastes in better-for-you foods and beverages.
Grab-N-Go Oatmeal Snacks
Building in portability and snackability are some more surefire recipes to success, catering to the growing numbers of on-the-go customers who are reaching for grab-‘n-go foods and beverages that they can eat in transit or at their work desk. Moreover, research confirms that consumers are increasingly reaching for cereal as a snack and that the snack market has become one of the largest and fastest growing segments in the industry – to the sweet and savory tune of an estimated $100 billion-plus!
Fortify Your Oats
To accommodate the whopping 82% of breakfast-food buyers who seek menu items that boost their sense of sense of alertness, energy, and satiety, experiment with creative ways to add protein, whole grains, and fiber to your hot oatmeal offerings. In the words of Nathan Pratt, PhD, RD, Nutrition Scientist at Kerry: “Research is showing protein distribution throughout the day is important for health, but most people don’t get enough protein in the morning… Only 8% of adults meet their recommended whole grain intake in the US, despite over 80% of people thinking whole grains are healthy… Protein-fortified cereal is one solution to this.”
Redesign Instant Oatmeal Cups and Bowls
Since innovation is a foodservice business game-changer, a savvy way for your eatery to break away from the competitive pack is to remodel and optimize your instant oatmeal cups and bowls. Environmentally friendly packaging, a key 2020 consumer concern, is one way to capture customers’ attention and win their favor, while other new takes on the single-serve container include investing in eye-catching decorative bowls that are accessorized with craftily placed apple and orange slices, assorted berries, and/or sunflower and pumpkin seeds.
And if you want to draw inspiration from some industry frontrunners, check out the innovative foldable oatmeal bowl introduced by the Gluten-Free Bar brand (GFB). It is comprised of a flat plastic-lined paper pouch with an outer sleeve that can be transformed into a bowl for convenient hot cereal consumption and is available in unprecedented flavors such as Gluten Free Power Breakfast Maple Raisin, where every protein-packed spoonful is filled with gluten-free oats, nuts, seeds, sun-ripened fruit, with no refined sugars, soy, or GMOs.
Post A Pic
Did you know that hot oatmeal is being dubbed as the “Instagram-worthy breakfast of choice”? To cater to the masses of consumers who call the Internet their home, be sure to post pics of your standout offerings online where they can become an instant hit. Add a catchy ‘hashtag’ to the mix and enjoy the ensuing breakfast business bonanza!
Tell an Oats Story
Finally, according to Mintel’s “Based on a True Story” study, your restaurant can capture the morning crowds by offering cereals with an appealing back-story. Do some research on the grains you use in your hot cereals, learn about customary ingredients from your customers’ home countries, and feature them prominently in your marketing campaigns. For example, Quaker Oats, the leading player in the oatmeal market since 1901, now offers Latin American and Peruvian varieties that include regional Andean Seeds, powdered beans, and cañihua grains, as well as Puerto Rican cornstarch-based hot cereal with organic coconut.
On the Menu at Quaker Oats
If you are interested in what else is on the Quaker Oats roster this year, check out the following plethora of new flavors and variety packs they are offering. Use them to stimulate your own chef’s creative culinary juices as your business becomes a formidable force in the industry: Maple & Brown Sugar, Apples & Cinnamon, Apples & Cranberries, Honey & Almonds. Cranberry Almond, Blueberry Cranberry Instant Oatmeal with Antioxidants, Raisin, Date and Walnut, Peaches and Cream, and even Quake Dinosaur Eggs! The latter is a fun, kid-friendly hot morning cereal featuring dinosaur-shaped pieces and described by the company as “a morning adventure filled with 34 grams whole grains per serving and the sweet flavor of brown sugar.”
The Future of the Hot Cereal Industry — and of Your Foodservice Biz
If you are wondering what’s coming next in the world of hot oatmeal, gaze into the crystal ball of the future: A recent survey from the Quaker Oats Company predicts sunny skies ahead with American consumers looking forward to – believe it or not – spicing up their oatmeal with hot sauce, served with a side order of sweet cinnamon oatmeal banana bread and kale fritters featuring a hot-sauce-yogurt dip.
At the same time, as you update your restaurant or catering service’s morning menu, do not rule out the role nostalgia still plays in the breakfast arena. With a throwback to the past, Quaker has also partnered with cooking show star Tia Mowry-Hardrict whose lifelong love of oatmeal inspired her to combine two of her favorite childhood foods – oats and pancakes – in a new recipe for Banana Chocolate Oat Pancakes. Bon Appétit and enjoy!