Production technology for breakfast cereals – from steam cooking grains the traditional way to innovative techniques for tasty and healthy new variants.
The story of breakfast cereals dates back to the end of the 1800s with the work of two brothers, William and John Kellogg, who were dedicated to developing foods with high nutritional value, starting off with cereals. Their greatest invention was the result of a lucky circumstance. In 1894, while they were running some tests on cooking corn, the brothers were interrupted and the product, which was cooked, dried out after being over-exposed to the air. When they discovered that the corn kernels were dried, they tried to crush them with a rolling pin and noticed that, instead of breaking to pieces, they stretched out in the form of a flake. After they had completely dried out the flakes in the oven, they found that they had created what would be known from then on as Corn Flakes. Breakfast cereals started to take off in Italy starting in the 60’s and were immediately appreciated by both children and adults for the crispiness and lightness. They were, in fact, a major innovation compared to the heartier breakfasts that the population was used to eating.
The evolution of the market
In the following years, the amount that families were spending on breakfast cereals started to rise, reaching an annual growth rate of 26% between 2004 and 2007, with revenues of over 350 million Euros. This growth then dropped off in the 2009-2010 period with a consistent decrease in sales (-3% compared to 2009). This was the same time that private labels started to become more significant, reaching 14% of the sales volume (in 2007) and challenging multinationals like Kellogg’s and Nestlé, the world leaders. The reaction of the companies to the slowdown in growth resulted in a huge investment in communications and innovation, aiming to attract more consumers interested in taste, correct diet and healthy foods. There were significant changes made to the nutritional information printed on the package. In addition to the ingredients, nutritional values and recommended serving sizes, more importance was placed on the certifications that the producers had attained (ISO 9001, BRC, IFC, Bio CCPG and Kosher) which gave customer assurance as to the quality of the product. Originally corn and toasted wheat were the only ingredients in the product. Today, due to the various commercial requirements, we can find an infinite variety of products on our breakfast table. Now each offers a different set of ingredients, better taste, more balanced nutritional values, formulated to meet the needs of dieters, those who need more fibre, vitamins and minerals, or those with a sweet tooth, like children who love chocolate and honey.