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Kellogg’s Café Looks to Move Breakfast Cereal Beyond Breakfast

Times Square, New York: Tourist capital of the nation, home to iconic institutions like Rockefeller Plaza and the Broadway theater district, classy eateries like Toloache and Esca, and recent entrant Kellogg’s NYC.

Wait, what?

Yes, it’s true. On July 1, the maker of cereals like Fruit Loops and Frosted Flakes opened a concept café in the heart of Times Square to serve its brands in unexpected and novel ways. The move signals the company’s growing awareness that cereal’s power as a mainstay breakfast staple is eroding.

A Time Before Cereal Got Soggy

The café appeals to nostalgia, with its clean white walls and checkered floors. “The idea [with the café] is to take something that is already very familiar and make it new and fun,” said Anthony Rudolf, whose culinary institute partnered with Kellogg’s.

Indeed, its decor harkens back to a time when breakfast was the undisputed king of the morning. Times have changed though. While sales have been falling since the mid-1990s, over the last 15 years they have dropped almost $4 billion overall. “The cereal category is certainly shifting,” said one director of a food research organization. “Consumers overall are less interested in industrially processed grains as a meaningful start to their day.”

Cereal Killer

Why the declining interest? There are two answers to that question: convenience and health, and they both have a lot to do with millennials.

Initially conceived as a convenience food to replace hot cereals, according to a recent Mintel survey, it has become a bit too inconvenient for 40% of millennials who report they avoid cereal in the mornings because it requires dirtying a bowl and a spoon, as well as some assembly. This stands in stark contrast to the protein bars, premade smoothies, single-serving yogurts, and on-the-go breakfast sandwiches favored by the generation, which require little to no preparation or clean up, and are mobile above all else.

Cereal Aisle

For those who value health over convenience, the simple corn, rice, and wheat carbohydrates that form the base of the most familiar breakfast cereals—and the sugar-dense flavorings that accompany them— have fallen out of favor over the last decade as consumers have come to prefer their grains whole and minimally processed. In place of breakfast cereal, these consumers turn to steel-cut oatmeal, congee, or peanut butter or avocado spread on toasted whole grain bread.

Millennials don’t see cereal as a quick part of a complete breakfast but as a relic of slower-paced and unhealthier mornings.

The Prize in the Box

And yet, there is hope. Cereal is no longer the cornerstone of American’s breakfast, but that doesn’t mean it is reviled.  It just has to adapt. “They have to embrace that people love the flavor and texture of cereal and the vintage nature but it’s not about breakfast,” said Christina Tosi, Kellogg’s NYC's visionary.

Kellogg’s SVP of marketing and innovation also sees opportunity for those willing to think outside the cereal box: “One-third of cereal consumption happens outside of breakfast hours. Cereals are meeting people’s meal needs across all parts of the day—in between meals, after school, even after dinner.”

Some Artisanal Jam with Your Fruit Loops, Sir?

That’s where the Kellogg's NYC comes in.  Starting with such familiar labels as Raisin Bran, Special K, and Fruit Loops, the café charges $6-$8 for such dishes as the “Life in Color”—which combines Fruit Loops, lime zest, marshmallows, and passion fruit jam—and “Berry Me In Green Tea” which pairs Rice Krispies, fresh strawberries, and green tea powder. The complimentary ingredients play to foodie culture and reposition cereal as a versatile companion to an array of flavors and textures, not a one-trick fish unable to survive without milk.

Already others have offered their favorite “hack” for breakfast cereal. Famed country singer Trisha Yearwood enjoys mixing Cinnamon Toast Crunch with Fireball while celebrity chef Ferran Adriá pours paella over a bed of Rice Krispies to add some crunch to the Spanish dish. Or, our favorite: Danny Bowien’s Corn Pops served over bacon-infused soy milk, topped with a fried egg.

Such a groundswell of excitement around repurposing cereal stands to strip away its stale image. It may never again be king of American mornings, but if Kellogg’s has its way, it will become a familiar part of every mealtime.

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