According to nutritionists, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But new research has shown that even in the UK, Europe’s largest cereal market, almost a third of school children do not eat breakfast. Manufacturers hoping to increase share in less developed European markets should concentrate on extolling the healthy virtues of cereals.

A survey by the National Farmers Union (NFU) has shown that a third of UK school children skip breakfast. Of those who do eat breakfast, 43% choose cereal, 30% have porridge and 13% are given a cooked breakfast. Despite this, the UK cereal market remains the largest in Europe and breakfast cereals hold a 14% share of the UK bakery and cereals market.

Germany is the second largest consumer of breakfast cereals in Europe, after the UK. However, growth is expected to slow in this market. These leaders have seen a degree of market maturity and manufacturers of breakfast cereals need to find new innovation and marketing strategies to continue increasing share in these markets.

Breakfast cereals have particular potential for future growth in other European countries. In Italy, for example, they generated revenues of US$132m in 2002, representing the fastest growing sector in the bakery and cereals market, with a CAGR of 7.3% in the period 1996-2001. In Spain, this sector is currently worth only $72m.

In under exploited European market such as Italy and Spain, there is not the same historical tradition of eating breakfast cereal as there is in the UK and Germany, partially due to climatic differences. The objective of cereal manufacturers is to introduce the product as a simple alternative to bread or biscuits with coffee. Also, by tempting children with sweetened cereals, manufacturers hope to establish a life-long habit of eating cereals.

In all European countries, companies are seeking to widen the customer base for cereal products by extolling the virtues of cereal as a snack food. There are already several products, fortified with additional vitamins or minerals, and bran or fruit-based products, which have proved popular. In this health conscious age, those manufacturers who concentrate on the healthy virtues of cereals stand to reap the bigger rewards.

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