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Cereal sales slump amid changing diets and other breakfast options

Cereal slump amid changing diets
Cereal slump amid changing diets and other breakfast options 04:20

America's love affair with cereals is fading. An estimated nine out of 10 households have cereal in their pantries, but those numbers are actually down. Despite the warm memories of childhood and the sugar highs, cereal sales have sagged over the past few years, reports CBS News' Jamie Wax.

"Over the five years to 2017, revenue has declined 3.3 percent," said Rory Masterson, a market analyst who tracks the cereal business.  

"It's still almost a $10 billion industry, but it's not at pre-recessionary highs," Masterson added.

The industry isn't going away, but people aren't eating as much cereal as they used to. Our eating habits and nutrition needs are changing.

"There still is a battle every day for what's going to be eaten at breakfast. Everyone's got a ton of choices," said Scott Baldwin, General Mills marketing and business unit director for cereal. He said the company is changing recipes and manufacturing to address current food concerns.

He points out that Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios, the most popular cereal in the United States, are both now gluten free. The same is true for Lucky Charms and Chex.

"People already loved Chex and Cheerios. And then you introduced it to a whole new group of people, and it absolutely benefited sales," Baldwin said.

But not every change works. Recently some cereal companies reclaimed real sugar as a bragging point, finding that taste rules when it comes to cereal choice.

"We're always trying to distinguish between what's a true trend versus what's a fad. And there's lots of ebbs and flows, you know, in the world of nutrition," Baldwin said.

Still there's more to the cereal slump than what's going into or coming out of the box. 

"As unemployment has decreased and disposable income has increased, consumers have felt more comfortable buying premium products and consuming products on the go," Masterson said.

With fast food and fast-casual restaurants offering breakfast, and a country seemingly stuck in a perpetual time crunch, cereal makers have had to adapt in order to keep up. It's why you see some favorite cereals served up in bar form – easy to eat on the go. 

"Commuter culture has contributed to the decline of the cereal industry as much as anything else," Masterson said. 

Of course, to some, cereal without milk is like a day without sunshine.

Watch the video above to see how "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King likes her cereal. 

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