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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How can these cereals be boring?

It’s in the numbers.

You hear that a lot.

If you want to buy something, you check your balance. If employers want to make a hire, they check the bottom line.

The numbers don’t lie.

If the funds are there, you can buy it. If not, well, a lot of us buy it anyway.

Then other numbers come into play.

Overdraft fees. Late fees. Diminishing credit scores.

But not all numbers are financial. But, as much we think about our cash balances, you’d think they were.

You’d be wrong, though!

Lately, I’ve been noticing numbers of a different kind. Every time I look at different websites, the numbers catch my eye.

They’re in list form.

It even happens on my paper’s website,

If you ever go to the Business section on our site, you’ve probably noticed it too.

“Five reasons why you need a vacation”

“10 cars — one for every stage in your life”

“Five of the most overpriced golf courses”

Numbers are wildly popular on the web these days. And it’s because it’s fast information to share with the reader — quick bits of information on things you’re interested in.

You probably won’t admit it, but you’ve clicked on these items before.

“Five healthiest fast-food breakfasts”

I’ll admit it. They get me every time.

They usually give me just enough information to help me solve a problem, and I’m a happy camper.

One that recently caught my eye last week was a little disappointing, though.

While checking out the Yahoo! homepage, I saw a headline I couldn’t resist: “Six breakfast cereals Americans no longer love”

I expected the stuff that makes mom’s cringe — the ones loaded with sugar and children’s toys.

Oh, was I wrong.

Turns out, the list held all of my favorites. Special K, Rice Krispies, Raisin Bran, Cheerios and Corn Flakes. Also there was Corn Pops.

Turns out that over the past few years, Americans’ breakfast habits have changed as convenience foods have become more readily available.

According the article by Jonathan Berr, a number of factors have caused cereal’s problems: the government’s attack on the use of cartoon characters to sell sugary cereals, the soaring number of egg-based breakfast sandwiches on the market and the recent surge in the price of milk.

The article quotes Dean Foods CEO Gregg Engles as saying that the drop in cereal sales has also hurt the milk industry, because 30 percent of milk sales are related to cereal.

In the list of six cereals that have fallen out of favor, various reasons were given for their failure to maintain success.

With Raisin Bran, it’s that so many cheaper off-brands have joined the market, causing consumers to flee. For Cheerios, it’s that as birth rates have fallen and cut into its market among parents looking for a good snack for toddlers, the healthy breakfast cereal market has boomed.

The one that was a little difficult to understand was Rice Krispies. It seems fewer people are buying it as a cereal. Most of its sales are taking place for use as an ingredient in a snack food — the Rice Krispie treat. Not sure how they know that.

Maybe someone can give me a list of ways.

I got a little worried about my favorites after reading the article. Rather than turning to the sickeningly sweet stuff I used to eat as a child, I always opt for the clean taste of the Rice Krispies, or Cheerios, or even Kix if I want cereal.

There’s nothing better than a bowl of one of these babies, with a banana cut in. Mmmmmmm. That’s heaven right there.

I just hope this doesn’t mean that we’re going to lose these better-for-you choices for breakfast. They’re not perfect, mind you. A choice higher in protein would be more likely to stick in your system longer. But they’re better than all the other sugary options or high-calorie choices out there.

For now, I’ll keep buying my “boring” cereals and hope that it’ll make a difference and keep them around.

Twitter: @lauranh


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