Kellogg’s wants you to add water to its new cereal. Really.
The company’s new “instabowls” look like traditional single-serve bowls — little tubs of cereal, designed to be eaten dry or with milk. But the instabowls also contain milk powder. When you add cold water and stir, the milk rehydrates and voila: instant milk and cereal.
This is the “first time that we’re able to give consumers the opportunity to have a milk and cereal experience without having milk readily available,” said Chris Stolsky, marketing director at Kellogg. “This can go with you wherever.”
The bowls come in four varieties: Frosted Flakes, Raisin Bran Crunch, Froot Loops and Apple Jacks. They are rolling out at select Walmart stores and available nationally at Walmart.com, and cost $1.98 per bowl.
Cereal sales had stagnated for years but got a boost during the pandemic.
In 2020, US ready-to-eat cereal sales surged to over $9 billion, up 9% from 2019, according to data from NielsenIQ. The bump was short-lived, however. In 2021, sales fell 7% to $8.4 billion — still above 2019 sales, but below the pandemic surge.
And earlier this year, Kellogg announced that it was splitting into three separate businesses. The largest business includes Kellogg’s snack brands, with North American cereal and plant-based foods spun off into two smaller, discrete companies. The separation will take effect by the end of next year.
Introducing a more portable cereal option may help keep some of that pandemic momentum going, especially as more consumers opt for snacks rather than sit-down meals, or once again eat breakfast outside of their homes.
Kellogg’s has been looking for a way to create milk-and-cereal bowls for over two years, said Stolsky, adding that consumers were interested in to-go products even before the pandemic.
But it took a while to figure out how to transform the milk powder into liquid quickly, a crucial innovation.
Add water, BYO spoon
Some powdered milks take a lot of stirring, or even shaking, to resemble liquid milk, Stolsky noted. You can’t really do that with cereal. And the longer it takes to fully rehydrate the milk, the soggier the cereal becomes. Before it could make Instabowls a reality, Kellogg’s needed something that would rehydrate swiftly and easily.
Instabowls use “a proprietary process that essentially evaporates the water off but leaves the milk components there,” Stolsky said. “So when you add the water back, it’s the same great taste, same great nutrition that you get with a regular amount of milk.”
I tried the Raisin Bran Crunch bowl, provided by Kellogg’s. Peeling back the lid revealed the cereal, topped with the milk powder. I added water to the fill line and after some stirring, the powder turned into milk, as promised.
To me, the rehydrated milk tasted a little strange, but that could be because I typically eat cereal with almond milk. My husband tried the Froot Loops bowl, and said he wouldn’t have known the milk was rehydrated. To him, it just tasted like sweet cereal milk.
Those who want a plant-based option should “hang tight,” said Stolsky. The company is “exploring” non-dairy powders, he said, adding that rehydrating is “a little more difficult when you’re using non-dairy … we need a little bit more time to work through that so the experience is the same.” Kellogg’s also made the choice to sell the bowls without spoons to reduce waste.
Eventually, the company plans to make the product available at more retailers. But it wants to make sure that people understand the concept first.
“We are really doing a test market with Walmart,” Stolsky said. The limited test will help the company “better understand” how to introduce the new product to consumers.
“It’s very strange, right? That you’re going to add water to it,” he said. “We want them to be able to understand,” the product, and that “the magic is in the bowl.”