family eating together

Global Trends in Breakfast Cereals

Here’s a look at the global trends in breakfast cereals, the top cereal markets, and reasons people are increasing their consumption of breakfast cereal.


  • Cereal has multiple eating occasions, with breakfast as the most popular.
  • Consumers are choosing cereal for health, taste, and convenience.
  • North America and Western Europe are the biggest markets, but demand in Asia is growing fast.
  • Trending claims and ingredients represent key opportunities for manufacturers.

Breakfast Cereal Occasions and Changing Consumption

Breakfast remains the top eating occasion for cereal, with 79% of global consumers typically consuming it at breakfast.1 However, the growing popularity of cereal for snacking is creating opportunities for manufacturers to refine their messaging, flavors, and even packaging to better target this occasion. Consumers are reaching for cereal as a morning (28%), afternoon (25%), and evening (19%) snack, as well as for lunch and dinner.2

Globally, 23% of consumers have increased their breakfast cereal consumption over the past year, with over half citing health as a reason.3 Of the countries with the largest recent increases in consumption—Vietnam (47%), India (39%), Saudi Arabia (36%), and Thailand (35%)4—most are in Asia, indicating an emerging opportunity in this region.  Consumers are eating oats/oatmeal the most often (44% at least twice a week), followed by cornflakes and sweet cereals.5

Global Breakfast Cereal Market

The $30.1 billion global retail breakfast cereal market has grown at a CAGR of 2.1% over the past five years.6 North America and Western Europe are the largest markets (accounting for about 60% of sales), while Asia is the fastest-growing market, with a forecast CAGR of 11% between 2021 and 2023.7 While the US is the largest market for breakfast cereals at $6.7 billion,8 it ranks only 12th in per capita consumption (indicating room for growth), with Ireland holding the top spot.9

Global Breakfast Cereal Retail Sales – Top 10 Countries

Country 2021 Retail Sales (in millions)
United States $6,966
United Kingdom $3,245
Mexico $3,013
Canada $1,980
Australia $1,258
Germany $1,243
Japan $1,105
France $1,002
Brazil $823
Italy $607
Source: Innova Market Sizing, 2021

Breakfast Cereals Have a Health Halo Globally

Breakfast cereal is strongly associated with healthfulness among today’s consumers. When Innova asked consumers from 37 countries why they consume cereal, the top reason was that “it’s healthy” (50%)—ahead of “it’s tasty” (47%) and “it’s convenient” (44%).10 In India, Indonesia, and Brazil, as many as two in three consumers cited health as a reason.11

bowl of granola and fruit

For those who have recently increased their cereal consumption, health is the main driver. While an average of 53% of global consumers say health is a reason they’re eating more cereal, this number is much higher in certain areas, including Argentina and Brazil (64%), Peru (66%), and China (70%).12

Global Breakfast Cereal Trends

This surging interest in breakfast cereals is creating some exciting opportunities for manufacturers, particularly for those who can offer consumers new healthy options without sacrificing taste. Here are some of the key global breakfast cereal trends to know:

1. Naturally Healthy

Naturally, healthy is an important trend underway in the breakfast cereal category. Beyond “all natural” claims, consumers are looking to start their day with ingredients that are naturally healthy such as oats for heart health benefits or flax known for its rich omega-3 ALA and fiber content. 

2. High Fiber

Consumers are also looking for high fiber in their cereal. Over one-third of global consumers (and about half in Canada and the Philippines) say a "high in fiber" or "source of fiber" claim influences their cereal purchase decision.13 And manufacturers are responding, with 42% of cold cereal launches and 48% of hot cereal launches in 2021 featuring a fiber claim (CAGR +8.6% and +7.6% from 2017 to 2021).14

3. High Protein

High protein claims are growing even faster. Between 2017 and 2021, "high in" or "source of" protein claims grew at a CAGR of 17.9% in cold breakfast cereal launches and 11.4% in hot breakfast cereal launches.15 Currently protein claims are more likely to be featured on hot cereals (25% of 2021 new product launches, compared with 16% for cold cereals).16  With protein’s benefits becoming more widely known, one in four global consumers now say they’re influenced by protein claims when buying cereal.17

Seeds and sugar

4. Real Ingredients

Consumers’ interest in “real ingredients” is also impacting the category. With 29% of global consumers considering claims of real ingredients or natural when choosing a cereal,18 more manufacturers are looking beyond the typical corn, rice, and wheat flour ingredients—particularly to nuts and seeds. 32% of 2021 cold cereal product launches contained nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), while 28% contained seeds (such as flax and chia).19 The use of seeds grew the most of all ingredients, up 6.4 percentage points in hot cereals and 4.5 percentage points in cold cereals since 2017.20

Start the Day with Healthy Ingredients

Breakfast cereal plays an important role in consumers’ diets (as a nourishing breakfast and a better-for-you snack), providing them with the nutrients and health benefits they’re looking for to start their day and keep them going. Formulating with the right ingredients will help ensure your consumers are getting their needs met. 

Glanbia Nutritionals offers a wide range of nutritional ingredients and services to help brands make the natural and healthy breakfast cereals consumers crave. This includes our plant-based solutions—a portfolio of high quality, allergen-free flaxseed, chia, quinoa, oat, and functional protein solutions like our semi-finished extruded dairy and plant-based pieces that are perfect for a high protein cereal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Healthy snacks to eat at night are foods that are convenient, nutritious, and keep you full through the night. Snacks that contain protein or fiber are especially effective at providing satiety. Examples of healthy nighttime snacks are protein bars and bites, yogurts, and snacking cereals with added fiber or protein.

Healthy snacks for toddlers are foods that are convenient, easy to eat, often mild in taste, and meet the nutritional needs of toddlers. According to the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a toddler’s diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy or fortified soy alternatives, and protein foods—and that includes snacks.

Since iron and zinc are especially important at this stage of life, healthy snacks for toddlers, as well as toddler meals, might be fortified with these and other essential nutrients. Today’s most popular healthy snacks for toddlers include fruit and vegetable purees, yogurts, cereals, cereal bars, and snack crackers.

Healthy snacking for pregnancy encompasses the right nutrients to support mother and baby, along with convenient formats and enjoyable flavors. The key nutrients at this life stage are folic acid, iron, calcium, vitamin D, DHA, protein, choline, and iodine. Fortified prenatal shakes and bars are a convenient way to make sure of getting enough of these specific nutrients.

Some fortified snacks formulated for pregnant women also contain bioactives that have special roles in immunity, growth, and development. Since pregnancy can be a stressful time, it’s important that prenatal snacks come in delicious and satisfying flavors. However, due to the effects of morning sickness, mild flavors may be appreciated, including flavors associated with calming the stomach like ginger, peppermint, and lemon.


1-7. Innova Market Insights, Breakfast Cereals, 2022.
8. Innova Market Sizing, 2021.
9-12. Innova Market Insights, Breakfast Cereals, 2022.
13. Innova Category Survey, 2021.
14-16. Innova Database, 2022.
17-18. Innova Category Survey, 2021.
19-20. Innova Database, 2022.

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