Courtesy Photo of Off Limits
Cereals have never looked so good. Modern cereal brands take the best qualities of America’s favorite breakfast – the nostalgic flavors, flashy packaging, simple portability – and give them a grown-up twist. The next time you grab a bowl of cereal, it might come out of a box that promotes social justice; it will likely contain ingredients that are high in protein and low in sugar; and it is now possible to combine it with milk that is better for the planet.
The advance of cereals in adult territory is manifested through social media trends. The snack bar has a long-standing relationship with streetwear, with pop-ups like KITH Treats and collaborations between Supreme and Wheaties. Enter the world of TikTok, and you have a selection of cereal milk latte recipes, as well as recreations of the virus $ 50 Tiny Croissant Cereal.
“Generation Y grew up with cereals,” explains Rachel Krupa, owner of The merchandise store. “And that age group is now made up of parents who still love cereals, but are also concerned about the content of their products.”
Some of the most popular cereal brands on the market today are replacing sugar with added protein. Magic spoon, a leader in the adult cereal industry, offers frozen snacks that mimic the nutritional makeup of a protein bar or keto smoothie. Monk fruit, stevia, and a rare, non-glycemic sugar called allulose replace the artificial sweetener. In the same way, Three wishes grains are mainly composed of chickpeas and pea protein.
Another element that binds these products together is a strong sense of nostalgia. Aptly named Schoolyard snacks specializes in ‘old school’, keto-friendly cereals, wrapping them in vintage packaging. The brand was founded by Helen Guo and Dylan Kaplan, who describe themselves as “two grown children who never grew up”.
Of course, food trends are cyclical and cereals aren’t the only item returning from the ’90s (see the return of the espresso martini). But Theo Martins, founder of Cereals & Such, think there is a bit more to the story, perhaps related to the static nature of the pandemic.
“There is such a search for purity,” says Martins. “In those times when you weren’t inundated with jobs, deadlines, minutiae, or a lot of unnecessary encounters, there was only the fun of your company, friends, or a TV show. It’s like everyone is sort of looking for that something that really gave them, for lack of a better word, meaning. People just liked what they wanted to enjoy.
And for Martins, cereal is a snack that really cultivates so much joy and innocence. “My family is made up of first generation immigrants from Nigeria,” says Martins. “So when my parents were busy at work, sometimes cereal was a snack for my siblings and me. We would go to a neighbor’s house, paint and watch cartoons. It was a whole world that I thought was rooted in cereal – through the pleasure of opening the packaging, maybe having a toy, being so absorbed in the flavor or just reading the box. .
Modern cereal brands are defined by innovatively designed boxes. The goal is less to capture the minimal, sans serif aesthetic of Millennial marketing, than to reinvent the loud, wacky energy of our favorite cereal mascots.
Off-limits, a cereal brand created by Emily Elyse Miller, showcases endearing characters who convey a range of emotions, far removed from the steadfast Tony the Tiger. There’s Dash, the anxious, outperforming bunny who represents the blend of coffee and cocoa, and Zombie, the midnight gamer who needs a cereal that’s as cold as them. So adaptogens and soothing flavors like vanilla and pandan come into play.
Through his mascots, Miller not only destigmatizes mental health issues, but also feminizes grain farming with female characters. Nic King does a similar job with Flushes of pride cereals, a brand he launched in 2020, in light of the George Floyd protests.
Her black fist-shaped chocolate vegan cereal serves to uplift the black community. The box features a picture of a black family on the front, a list of influential black figures on the sides (Bessie Coleman and Muhammad Ali, to name a few), and a word search filled with positive affirmations in the back.
There was nothing quite like the analog experience of reading the back of the box while munching on your cereal. And now, brands are taking that moment of contemplation to the next level, offering children and adults something more meaningful to think about.
“As an adult who still eats cereal and enjoys it with friends, I don’t want to be put down,” says Martins. “And it’s quite obvious that most of the boxes are aimed at children. “
Gone are the days when Toucan Sam and Captain Crunch were pushed into a closet, out of sight. Modern cereal boxes are designed for good display. “I treat it basically like a soft sculpture – a beautiful thing that is meant to be thrown away and recycled,” says Martins. “Really just standardize the beautiful products in the house.”
“As an adult who always eats cereal and enjoys it with friends, I don’t want to be put down. And it is quite obvious that most of the boxes are aimed at children. “
“The packaging allows it to be on the shelf or beyond your counter, so it’s easily accessible to grab it and pour it into a bowl,” adds Krupa. “And now that’s a statement. When you have a guest in your house, they’ll say, “What is this? Can I try?’ It’s a topic of conversation that connects us.
It’s also worth noting that the grain counterpart, milk, is also experiencing a moment of reinvention. The non-dairy milk market continues to thrive, with new alternative milks appearing every day. Some of Krupa’s favorite brands include Task, a vegan milk made from real pistachios, as well as that of Willa, which Krupa says contains less sugar than most oat milks on the market. She is also delighted to CECIPKN, a pecan milk that supports regenerative agricultural practices.
These plant varieties add new flavors (and colors) to our favorite grains, creating a positive environmental impact. And they are also becoming available in different forms. JOI created plant-based milk concentrates like oatmeal powder and marzipan, meant to be mixed with water. It’s a very durable option, with less packaging and a longer shelf life, not to mention a fun design that goes with modern cereal boxes.
Some people give up milk altogether and go for the hand in the can experience. “People these days think of cereal as a version of a crispy snack, as opposed to something you associate with milk,” says Krupa. “This is what we saw with OffLimits, which does mini-boxes. People open them and eat them as if they were a bag of crisps.
Maybe the best part about growing up right next to cereal is that the rules from our childhood no longer apply.