Homemaker Anita Desai finds breakfast easy to handle for her office-going husband and son ever since she added oats to the menu. "It's convenient, healthy and wholesome. The pre-mixed savoury options are great for variety," she said.
Although the breakfast cereals category is dominated by cornflakes, it is oats that has, over the last two years, caught on with urban consumers. Even Kellogg has launched flavoured oats – Kellogg's Oat-Bites; Heart-to-Heart Oats, Tomato Salsa and Green Pudina – as also a muesli range.
"Kellogg leads the ready-to-eat cereal category and is a major player in oats. It continues to innovate and invest. Kellogg's Oat-bites is the only ready-to-eat in the market. We expect to see sustained growth in breakfast cereals, driven by consumers' increasing nutrition awareness and spending power," said Sangeeta Pendurkar, MD, Kellogg India.
"Oats is a nutritious, healthy, versatile grain, conveniently cooked in three minutes, and affordable – at Rs 140 per kg, a single serving of 35 gm is under Rs 5," pointed out Anuj Chadha, category director, Quaker, PepsiCo India - Foods.
"With Quaker Oats, the market leader in oats, we're riding a health awareness trend across economic classes."Oats has several benefits: cholesterol, sugar and weight control; easy to digest; filling and energising; fibrous; and easy to prepare, says a Nielsen India report, 'Oats are making waves at the breakfast table'. The annual sale of oats is growing at 38%, higher than the breakfast cereal category's 21.7% growth.
"The breakfast cereal market has been exploding over the last two years with a slew of launches – notably in oats – by virtually every food company in India," observed Dolly Jha, executive director, Nielsen India and the report's author. The west and the south have shown a higher preference for oats, with Chennai and Cochin recording penetration of 37% and 34% respectively.
"Indian consumers have traditionally enjoyed hot breakfasts of daliya, poha, upma and parathas. The consumption experience of oats is closer to their habits, since oats are also consumed hot," said Jayant Singh, EVP marketing, GSK India, whose brand, Horlicks, has launched an oats range in three Indian savoury flavours, in the south.
"Indian consumers, increasingly time poor, especially in the mornings, seek convenience in preparing meals. They prefer hot and savoury breakfasts, as opposed to the West, where breakfast is cold and sweet," said Sameer Satpathy, EVP and business head, Marico, whose brand Saffola offers regular and masala oats, and muesli.
"Based on consumer observation of using oats in mixes, in 2012, we launched Quaker variants in real fruits and veggies. And after test marketing Quaker Nutria Poha and Nutria Upma in NCR, we have just launched them in Delhi," said Chadha.
Companies and brands in the 'healthy foods' space have quickly extended to oats. With consumer education and category building key, brand power matters.
"Brand Horlicks is already closely associated with the breakfast occasion, with over 40% of its health food drink consumption taking place in the mornings. Our foray into oats was a natural extension," Singh said.
Saffola, which rides on 'health' with its cooking oils, launched oats three years ago. "Saffola Oats and Masala Oats have crossed the 15% value market share, catapulting to the number two position in oats. The Saffola brand has a very strong equity and is synonymous with heart health," Satpathy said.
Britannia, with its healthy foods positioning, has launched Healthy Start Oats in the south. "Our research shows that close to 20% of working people in urban India miss breakfast daily, or have it on the move. They know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and yet they continue to compromise," said Anuradha Narasimhan, director marketing, Britannia.
The breakfast market will draw consumers in larger numbers, Jha said.