It appears many Americans have been walking down the cereal aisle more than usual as they shop for groceries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to ongoing CivicScience tracking data, American families’ cereal consumption had been declining steadily over the past five years — 48% of U.S. adults said their family ate cereal at least once per week in 2019, down from 54% in 2015. 

But it seems that the pandemic may have sparked a resurgence in cereal-eating: weekly consumption rose from a monthly low of 44% in December to a peak of 52% in April. Meanwhile, the share of respondents who said they “rarely or never” eat cereal fell from 36% to 30%.

The share of respondents who “rarely or never” eat cereal has snapped back to 33% since April, but the portion of weekly cereal-eaters has held steady at 51% in May and June.

Of course, cereal is a favorite of many children, and the recent boost to cereal-buying may have been driven, at least in part, by kids staying home from school over the past few months. Since March 1, those living in households with four or more people were far more likely than others to say that their family eats cereal at least weekly.

But it’s not just large families. It turns out that people who live alone are buying cereal at a higher clip than usual during the coronavirus pandemic as well. So far this year, the percentage of people who live alone that eat cereal at least weekly bounced from a low of 28% in February to a high of 41% in May.

Generic vs. Name-Brand

Among those who typically buy cereal, more than one-quarter say they’re ‘very likely’ to buy generic / store-brand cereals, while nearly 4 in 10 say they stick to the brand names.

Women were more likely to say they would buy generic / store-brand cereals, while men were more likely to stick to the name brands. 

Unsurprisingly, one’s likelihood of buying generic bags and boxes decreases as household income goes up — but, until household income reaches $150,000 / year, the difference is fairly minimal.

Interestingly, those who are “very likely” to buy generic cereals were less likely than others to have tried grocery delivery. Among those who had tried it, generic cereal buyers were far less likely than others to say they enjoyed the experience.

Meanwhile, cereal brand loyalists — those who are “not at all likely” to buy generic — are more likely to say they would wait until their next shopping trip to buy a product that was out-of-stock than they would be to buy off-brand. Generic cereal buyers were much less likely to wait (14%) or go to another store (16%).

Battle of the Cereal Heavyweights

As far as those brand-name cereals go, it seems that the Cheerios family of cereals is at the top of the heap. General Mills’ two top brands — Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios — were the two most favorably viewed cereals in a CivicScience survey of the flagship brands from each of the country’s top four cereal producers (General Mills, Kellogg’s, Post, and Quaker Oats).

Healthy Cereal Brands Weathered A Storm

Interestingly, unfavorable feelings toward health-conscious cereal brands — such as Kashi and Cascadian Farm — seemed to spike around the year 2017, but have since been in decline. Favorable attitudes toward these brands, meanwhile, have held relatively steady throughout this period. Still, they remain fairly niche: In 2020, 26% of consumers are favorable toward Kashi, while 20% are favorable toward Cascadian Farm.

Other fun facts about cereal from the CivicScience database:

  • 62% of U.S. adults who eat cereal say they drink the milk at the bottom of the bowl “every time”
  • A head-to-head matchup between the kids’ cereals Froot Loops and Lucky Charms in a CivicScience survey resulted in a statistical tie (51% Froot Loops, 49% Lucky Charms) among U.S. adults
  • However, U.S. adults decisively chose cold cereal with milk (60%) over oatmeal (40%)