Decades ago, I stopped shopping for food in the supermarket, only entering for cereal, milk, and tortillas.
Which left cereal.
Due to one hundred years of extensive marketing, cereals have an aura of health—yet the truth can be somewhat hairier.
The cereal I bought was a bran one, that, when served with cinnamon yogurt, was edible. Yet I became aware of another bran cereal and became perplexed. One day I spent an inordinate amount of time in the aisle, comparing the labels, to determine which was ‘healthier’.
I figured it was the level of processing that made the difference—then realized the situation was ridiculous—so I put down both boxes, and walked out the doors, to eat real food for breakfast.
What a revelation!
During summer I eat an egg on sourdough toast—or a flatbread made earlier—with spinach, silverbeet or rainbow chard. Tomatoes with basil, on garlic-rubbed bread. Hummus with Mediterranean green beans. Corn or zucchini fritters. In winter, I warm myself up with lentils, chickpeas, vegetable-rich minestrone or something with a farro base. By the time the coffee percolator is bubbling, my breakfast is freshly made, or for something complex, heated up.
The breakfasts I eat now are flavoursome, have more variety, and are packed with goodness. Best of all, they keep me full, with lunch and dinner much smaller. Most items are bought direct from the farmer, and if not, from a local independent store.
I’m not the only one to rethink breakfast. Over the past few years, millions of people around the world are now waking up to real breakfasts, to avoid, in certain brands, the ultra-processing which highly degrades the food, and adds mountains of sugar and salt.
Cereal manufacturers are scrambling because their revenue is declining, profits are down, and share prices are falling. But they are not giving up. They are transforming cereal into snacks, so people can eat, or drink, industrial food on the run. They are developing hundreds of new products each year, and targeting new customer segments. They are acquiring new businesses, for example, Kelloggs bought Pringles, to increase their share of stomach. They are developing new business models, such as snacking as a service. And they are tapping into emerging markets, where people still eat traditional breakfasts, and they will spend billions of dollars, just like they did in the United States, England, and Australia, to erode this.
When you have time, please consider what you eat for breakfast and where you buy it.
No need to be a hero—one small change can help take down the largest multinational food corporation.
The Guardian: Felicity Lawrence, Drop that spoon! The truth about breakfast cereals, 23 November 2010
Gyorgy Scrinis: Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice
FlavourCrusader: Kellogg’s new junk cereal is munted, 26 January 2013
BBC: The Foods That Make Billions—Cereals