By Dr Preethi Ramachandran*

This is the first part of the article. The second will appear in April edition

Breakfast cereals are type of processed food made from grain and intended to be eaten as main course. In most cases, these breakfasts item are served with milk or cream, but it’s not rare for people to consume it with yoghurt or plant-based milk (almond milk). Sometime, they are served sweet by adding sugar, syrup or fruits. Breakfast cereals are classified as Ready-to-Eat and Hot breakfast cereals. Ready-to-Eat (RTE) breakfast cereals are formulations that are exclusive of any additional food preparation or in other words, requires no further cooking. These products are light in weight, shelf-stable and well-situated for transportation and storage. RTE breakfast cereals differ from hot breakfast cereals in terms of cooking, as later requires cooking before they are ready for consumption, but now some varieties are pre-processed so that they are ready for consumption with the addition of either hot water or milk. Ready-to-Eat breakfast cereals are primarily made from corn, wheat, oats, or rice. They contain added flavours and fortifying ingredients.

The modern concept of RTE cereals originated in the United States in the latter part of the nineteenth century. In the early stages of development, they were used as healthy vegetarian food in a clinical context. Soon they caught the interest of general public, and the entire industry spawned. The first breakfast industry was established in Battle Creek, Michigan, by the Kellogg brothers. Dr John H Kellogg filled a patent for production of flaked cereals in 1894, and soon CW Post invented the first prototype of the Grape Nuts that are still manufactured and sold. As technology improved, a wide range of RTE breakfast cereals evolved from traditional corn and oat flakes to more sophisticated products.

The industry of RTE products are increasing because of increase in number of working housewives and to keep the pace with the new consumer trends. The market size of various breakfast cereals categories in India are presented below in Table 1.Out of the major segments of the Indian ready-to-eat market, the ready-to-eat breakfast cereals segment is expected to experience faster year-on-year growth (~19.85%) during a period of 2019-2024.  The main players of this industry in India are Baggry’s, Kellogg’s and Nestle.

Table 1. The Market size of breakfast cereals and its categories in India

Most of the Ready-to-Eat Breakfast cereals are classified into 12 general groups for easy understanding of their manufacturing process. The processing of RTE cereals typically involves first cooking the grain with flavour, colour, salt, sugar and other sweetners to improve its appearance, palatability and overall acceptability; sometime heat stable nutritional fortifying agents are added before cooking. Most undisclosed recipes use decorticated grains and/or a blend of refined grits and/or flour from cereals. The new trend of industry is to use whole grain or brans to increase dietary fiber.

The general procedure for preparation of RTE cereals starts with the combination of ingredients that are cooked, formed, baked, flavor-enriched and packed. Cooking is essential in order to gelatinize the starch and produce dough that can be mechanically sheeted, shaped or formed. In industry, RTE cereals are cooked by two methods-direct steam injection into the grain mass in rotating batch type vessels and continuous extrusion cooking. Steam injections are usually used to process grains or large grits, whereas extruders are used to process smaller grits, semolina, meals and even flours. Extruded technology is used to manufacture two major categories of products: direct expanded and pellets. Pellets are intermediate products as they must be additionally processed before they are ready for the consumer.

The obtained pellets are processed baking in continuous oven to develop flavor, texture and colour. Rotary toasting and flat-band ovens are two different type of oven used for baking of pellets. Rotary ovens work on the principle of convention and are common in industry as they help in producing flaked and puffed products. However, flat-band operates on conduction phenomena and manufactures large products such as shredded and compressed flakes. Baking to the highest degree affects sensory properties of breakfast cereals. The high temperature baking destroys some of the vitamins, and therefore they are added after this thermal step. Baked cereals are flovoured and /or sweetened by coating with liquid sprays or dry powders on-line or applied inside coating drums. The coating is a mixture of enrichment premix and antioxidants. The baked coated cereals are then packed to preserve its texture in materials such as printed paperboard cartons, protective liners and premade bags. Modern packaging is bag-in-box lines equipped with bag form fill machine and high speed cartoners.

Type of RTE cereals

Breakfast cereals are classified according to their manufacturing process into traditional flaked cereals (corn flkes, wheat flakes, rice flakes), including extruded flakes, gun-puffed whole grains, shredded whole grains, oven-puffed cereals, granola cereals, extruded expanded cereals, baked cereals, compressed flake biscuits, muesli-type products and filled bite-size shredded wheat. The market distribution is conquered by flaked (traditional and extruded) and puffed (oven, extruded, and gun-puffed) products. Most of the traditional RTE cereals were prepared traditionally but later on evolved into extrusion.

1. Flaked cereals: RTEflakes are generally produces from maize, rice or wheat. They are produced from whole grains, decorticated/degermed kernels and refined milled fractions. Therefore the final properties of finished product are critically dependent on selection of raw materials. The process flowchart for manufacturing of flaked cereals is given in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Process for manufacturing of corn, rice and wheat flakes.

*Teaching Personnel,

Department of Food Science and Technology

GB Pant University of Agriculture and Technology