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Oat cereal outpaces other healthy options in India, finds Nielsen

By Kacey Culliney , 12-Jul-2013

Oat cereal has boomed in India, but one-third of the population is still in the dark, finds Nielsen
Oat cereal has boomed in India, but one-third of the population is still in the dark, finds Nielsen

Indian consumers have universally steered towards healthier breakfast options over the last decade and oat cereals have far outpaced other choices, Nielsen research shows.

India’s breakfast cereal market has soared by 38% over the last year and oats now constitute 26% of the Rs. 720 crore ($120m) sector, according the data from Nielsen in its recent report 'Oats are making waves at the breakfast table'. 

“Each part of India has its own unique breakfast habits, but communities across the country have universally steered toward healthy options over the last decade – and oats have been one of the most popular choices,” said report author and executive director of Nielsen India Dolly Jha.

Writing in the report, she said: “Not only has the adoption of oat cereal outpaced other healthy options in the last three years in the urban market, oats have immense potential on a national scale.”

‘Tremendous’ opportunity for oats

Oat consumption across India remains fairly low at 13% and is focused on certain areas, particularly the south but cities like Chennai and Chochin in South India have higher penetration ( 37% and 34% respectively) as they adopted the format earlier.

“The acceptance in these cities highlights tremendous opportunity for further penetration in the southern region,” wrote Jha.

However, these opportunities could be blocked by a significant and wide-spread lack of knowledge about oats, she added.

One-third of population not aware of oats

“Given the low penetration in India, the oats industry presents marketers with incredible opportunity. The first and simplest strategy should be to build awareness, as one-third of the population is not even familiar with the product,” she said.

Across the country, 44% of consumers are aware of oats but not using them. Only 13% are regular users – households consuming at least once a week.

“Marketers need to innovate and educate consumers about using oats for different recipes that can cater to a wider base,” Jha said.

Currently, the most popular form of consumption remains simple – as porridge with milk, Nielsen found. Some consumers have also tried to incorporate oats into traditional bread and porridge-like breakfast options like upma, idli, roti and dosa.

The taste hurdle

Jha said that alongside the knowledge hurdle, manufacturers face the problem of taste appeal – a strong deterrent for many non-users.

Consumers of oat cereal prefer flavored products – both savory and sweet – although there is a heavy skew towards salty options, she said.

“Taste is clearly a window of opportunity for marketers to introduce new recipes, interesting mixes and different flavors. Given the inherent health benefits of oats, tastier options will surely be a winning mix,” Jha said.

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