Simple and natural products
President: Giuseppe Riccardi di Kellogg Italia, Secretary: Eleonora Bianchi
Breakfast cereals are simple, natural products which are an excellent choice for a nutritious and well-balanced breakfast. Breakfast cereals arrived in Italy in around the 1960s – during the country’s economic boom – from the United States, where they were invented towards the end of the 19th century. These new products met with instant success, arousing the curiosity of the public and in particular of children. Generally speaking, breakfast cereals are rich in carbohydrates – an important source of energy – and often also in fibre. They tend to be low in fat and, in most cases, the recipe also includes the addition of various micronutrients such as iron, calcium and vitamins.
THE MARKET BY NUMBERS
In 2019, the Italian market for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and cereal-based bars boasted a sales volume of 72,434 tonnes, up by 11% compared to previous year. In this context, the Italian market for ready-to-eat breakfast cereals amounts to 66,326 tonnes, for a total value of 387.2 million euros, while the volume of cereal-based bars market is 6,108 tonnes (+10%), for a total value of about 90 million euros, up by over 12% on 2018.
Cereals at the dawn of humanity
Humans started cultivating plants thousands of years ago and cereals have played a fundamental role in human nutrition since the Stone Age.
It all started with “Granose”
Breakfast cereals, however, are a far more recent invention. The first breakfast cereal was invented in 1863 by James Caleb Jackson, a staunch vegetarian from the State of New York. However, “Granose” – the name of the product – was not very successful because the bran had to be soaked overnight before it could be eaten.
The accidental invention of Corn Flakes
The history of breakfast cereals really begins in the late nineteenth century in Battle Creek, Michigan, and is inextricably linked to the lives of two brothers and their commitment to promoting a healthy and natural lifestyle. William and John Kellogg were conducting experiments to develop healthy, light foods with a high nutritional profile, and they thought that the idea of processing cereals to make them ready for use – without the consumer having to do anything – was a great opportunity to offer people a tasty and nutritious breakfast. But their greatest invention was invented by fortuitous accident: in 1894, while boiling wheat to make bread dough, the brothers were interrupted and the wheat boiled for too long and dried out. When they saw the overcooked, dry wheat berries, they tried to roll them out with a rolling pin and noticed that instead of crumbling, they separated into large, flat flakes. They immediately put them in the oven to finish drying them and the result was what everyone from then on knew as Corn Flakes.
The breakfast cereal boom in Italy
In Italy, people only started eating cereal for breakfast in the 1960s, during the economic boom that in addition to promoting widespread well-being, also encouraged the importation of different types of ready-to-eat cereals from the United States.
Types of Cereal
A “flaking” process is used to make Corn Flakes: the grains are pressure cooked, generally with the addition of salt, sugar and malt. They are then dried, cooled and pressed by rollers to give them their characteristic shape. Finally, the flakes are oven toasted, cooled and packaged.
The grains are pre-cooked, often by steam, under high pressure: the intense heat causes the moisture in the grains to become steam and they swell. The grains are then cooled, dried and sent to undergo other processes where necessary (a chocolate coating, for example).
The flours, starch and other dry ingredients are measured out and then put in a specific machine called an “extruder”, which mixes and cooks them together with a solution of sugar, salt, malt, flavourings and water. Once cooked, the mixture is removed from the extruder and kept under pressure to expand the grains, or under atmospheric pressure to mould them into a particular shape (for example shells, rings, etc.).
Cereal bars are single-serving snacks consisting of a mixture of cereals (puffed rice, wheat, oats, etc.) and enriched with chocolate, dried fruit, hazelnuts, almonds and honey, to name but a few. These energy-boosting snacks are a source of vitamins and minerals. They are also very practical because they come in small single-serving packs, perfect for a break at work or while practicing sports.
The production process for making ready-to-eat cereals is short and simple, and hasn’t undergone any substantial changes since their invention over one hundred years ago.
Harvesting and Milling
Once ripened in the sun, the “raw materials” used to make breakfast cereals ̶ barley, wheat, rye, corn, rice and oats ̶ are harvested from the fields and then transferred to large silos where they are stored. The grains are milled to remove any parts that could impair their freshness or flavour. Oats are dried, desiccated, hulled, polished, cut, washed and classified.
Additional ingredients such as sugar, malt and salt are permitted.
Cooking and drying
The mixture is then cooked and dried to reduce the moisture level. The cereal grains, or parts of them, are then steamed and flaked.
The final product is then taken out of the oven and sent to the packaging machines, where it is automatically distributed between the bags. The filled bags are then packed into boxes and shipped to the points of sale.
An energy boost to start the day
Breakfast cereals are rich in carbohydrates and therefore ideal for providing an energy boost to start the day in the best possible way. They are generally low in fat and in many cases are enriched with iron, calcium and vitamins, in order to further enhance their nutritional value.
High in nutrients, low in calories
Ready-to-eat cereals are considered nutrient-rich foods: this means that they meet daily nutrient requirements (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins), while their calorie intake remains modest.
A taste for breakfast
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are usually eaten with milk or yogurt and they play a key role in encouraging children and adults to regularly eat the first meal of the day, considered by many nutritionists not only as the most important, but also fundamental.