Most people know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day – setting you up for the hours ahead. But many people don’t get time for breakfast – either having to head off early for their busy commute or just having to work longer hours.

This may sound like a dire situation but forecourt retailers should be rubbing their hands with glee. For the people heading off early in the morning can just about make time to pop into the forecourt, fill up with petrol, pick up a newspaper and something to eat once they get to work. It won’t be bacon and eggs but it might be a bacon sandwich. And it won’t be a bowl of cereal but it might be a cereal bar.

But despite the huge variety of things consumers now eat for breakfast, no forecourt would be offering a true breakfast range without the presence of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.

Cereals are still a breakfast mainstay for many people – according to Mintel 53 per cent of us eat cereal once a day. But the heaviest eaters are the youngest and oldest age groups – kids and over-65s – leaving the rest of us to grab something for breakfast whenever and wherever we can.

Kellogg’s is of course the cereal king. Apparently over four million bowls of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are eaten every day in the UK and around 50 per cent of all UK households have a packet of them in their cupboards at any one time. But even this traditional brand has been brought up to date via packaging innovation.

Earlier this year, Corn Flakes were launched in re-closeable K-Lock packs that help keep the flakes crispier for longer. K-Lock is the second packaging innovation for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in less than 12 months – it introduced foil-fresh packaging last year.

But some things never change and it’s great to see that the tradition of putting plastic toys in cereal packets lives on. Kellogg’s latest one is a link up with Warner Bros to celebrate the return of Bugs Bunny and pals to the big screen with the ‘Looney Tunes Back in Action’ film. As a result Kellogg’s is giving away over 11 million Toon Poppers with its best-selling kids cereals, which include Frosties, Coco Pops and Rice Krispies.

But the Looney Tunes fun doesn’t stop there as the promotion continues on two million Kellogg’s cereal and milk bars with a series of four collectable movie magnets.

Like every food category, cereals has to keep the innovation coming. For Kellogg’s this means bringing the first-ever pre-biotic cereal to the UK market with Rice Krispies Muddles.

This new cereal features inulin, a natural pre-biotic extract from plants that helps the body produce friendly bacteria. And Rice Krispies’ traditional toasted rice is replaced by four different multi-grain cereal shapes.

Brand characters Snap, Crackle & Pop will still star on pack and the launch will be supported by dedicated TV and press advertising from this month, consumer education and healthcare professional campaigns, sampling and heavyweight PR support.

Meanwhile, according to Mintel, sales of cereal bars nearly trebled between 1998 and 2003, to reach £182m. Much of this growth is thanks to the major cereal manufacturers such as Kellogg’s and Cereal Partners turning their cereal brands into successful cereal bars.

The latest cereal to be transformed into a bar is Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut. It comprises corn, rice, wheat, hazelnuts and honey and performed well in research with 69 per cent of the 25 to 44-year-old target audience saying they would be likely to buy it. The launch is backed by a £7m spend including TV advertising which starts this month.

The £42m Nutri-Grain brand is a must-stock for forecourts, especially as it is being relaunched with a new pack design and a £4m support package. Retailers are advised to stock the best-selling strawberry, apple and blueberry flavours. According to IRI data, Nutri-Grain accounts for 20 per cent of the cereal bar category, so it merits sufficient shelf space. Kellogg’s advises retailers to site the brand next to confectionery to drive impulse sales. The company offers a range of merchandising units including a counter unit that holds six cases.

It’s a busy time in the cereal bar market as Masterfoods has just relaunched its Tracker brand with two new flavours: lemon and forest fruits. The company says cereal bars have been bought by over half of UK households in the last year and as such are becoming a ‘habit purchase’. Tracker’s performance in impulse is good but could be much better with greater distribution.

Masterfoods trade relations manager Sam McElligott explains: “Tracker currently only enjoys just over 50 per cent distribution in impulse at a value of £4m. We therefore believe there is a huge opportunity for impulse, particularly with the growth in snacking on the go and ‘deskfast’ where people are increasingly eating breakfast at work. With the potential to grow Tracker distribution by another 50 per cent, impulse is missing out on another £4m-worth of sales.”

Interestingly, Masterfoods’ advice on positioning in store is the opposite to Kellogg’s. The company says Tracker should be placed near other baked products such as muffins or flapjacks and not with confectionery.

While we’re still on the subject of bars, Frumba has launched a range of healthy fruit snack bars. The three Frum’boost bars are handmade 100 per cent natural snack bars, packed with real fruit and over 20 natural ‘boost’ ingredients. Developed by a sports nutritionist, each bar is designed with blends of natural vitamins, minerals and botanical ingredients to give consumers either a physical energy, mental energy or immune boost.

The range comprises: Original – physical energy boost with guarana and vitamin B6; Light – mental energy boost with ginseng and ginkgo biloba plus only 3.5g of fat per bar; and Yoghurt – immune boost with echinacea, vitamin C & Zinc, also with only 3.5g of fat per bar. The bars are aimed at 20 to 40-year-old women.

Frumba founder Douglas Struthers says: “We believe the Frum’boost bars offer a unique proposition, and one which will open up a huge sales and profit opportunity by giving consumers a real reason to pay a little more. This has been reflected with an overwhelming response from the trade and consumers – with initial sales far exceeding forecasts.”

Frumba has been successfully selling freshly made fruit smoothie drinks with ‘boost’ ingredients through health clubs for four years. The Frum’boost launch was in direct response to customers who said they wanted a fruity snack bar with the same ‘boost’ ingredients.

Early morning might be too soon for some people to drink a can of Red Bull but if they’re looking for a pick-me-up they could do worse than pick up a Frum’boost.