10 Largest Cereal Brands In The United States

By Chris Kolmar - Jun. 8, 2021

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How does your favorite cereal stack up? We’ve dug into the research to determine which cereal brands are the favorites in the United States.

By comparing sales and the number of boxes sold, we’ve come up with a list according to the most recent data available. You’re going to be surprised at how much breakfast cereal Americans gobble up each year.

  1. Cheerios. Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

    Parent Company: General Mills
    2018 Sales: $435.9 million
    Boxes Sold: 139.1 million

    Cheerios first showed up in cereal bowls in 1941, but at the time, they were called CheeriOats. The company is sold around the globe by different brands. In the United States, they fall under General Mills’ product lineup.

    In 1945, the name CheeriOats was shorted to Cheerios, and the oat cereal became very popular.

    It wasn’t until 1976 that they tried a fresh new flavor for their oats, and Cinnamon Nut Cheerios was created, but that wasn’t their runaway hit; it was the next flavor they tried that people loved – Honey Nut Cheerios.

    Honey Nut Cheerios is a huge hit. In fact, they’re the second favorite cereal brand in the United States.

  2. Honey Nut Cheerios. Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

    Parent Company: General Mills
    2018 Sales: $421.7 million
    Boxes Sold: 129.3 million

    As mentioned, Honey Nut Cheerios was the second flavor that Cheerios created after Cinnamon Nut. They were introduced in 1979 and sold about 1.8 million cases in that year.

    These Cheerios are sweeter than the original and flavored with honey and almond flavor. In the beginning, actual nuts were used for the almond flavor, but in 2006, they stopped using nuts and started using flavor from peach and apricot pits.

    General Mills has long used the cheerful cartoon bee, Buzz Bee, as the mascot for the cereal, but it’s not just the mascot bee they care about. They’ve been active with bee conservation and awareness since 2011.

  3. Frosted Flakes. Battle Creek, Michigan USA

    Parent Company: Kellogg’s
    2018 Sales: $412.6 million
    Boxes Sold: 132.3 million

    Frosted Flakes are corn flakes that are sugar-coated. Originally, the cereal hit the market in 1952 and was called Sugar Frosted Flakes at the time. Apparently, they really wanted to hit home the fact that they were sugar-coated.

    Obviously, as people became more concerned about calories and the sugar in their foods, the brand wanted to deemphasize the amount of sugar they used and dropped the word sugar from the name in 1983.

    But what’s in a name? Actually, for Frosted Flakes, it doesn’t mean much. The name is so generic that it cannot be trademarked, which is why you’ll see competitors using the name also.

    How do you know it’s the real Frosted Flakes? Of course, looking for Kellogg’s logo will help, but your biggest clue with be Tony the Tiger. Tony has been around since the introduction of the cereal and has become an icon.

  4. Honey Bunches of Oats. St. Louis, Missouri USA

    Parent Company: Post Consumer Brands
    2018 Sales: $375.2 million
    Boxes Sold: 111.3 million

    Honey Bunches of Oats was the brainchild of a Post employee, Vernon Herzing. He took several Post cereal and mixed them together, letting his daughter taste each concoction.

    The original version was released in 1989 and included three kinds of flakes and oat clusters, and they’re baked with a little bit of honey.

    Apparently, Herzing’s daughter is pretty good at picking cereals because this has been a big success for Post. There have also been many different varieties, some are current, and some have since been discontinued, but it’s the original that’s still a favorite in the United States.

  5. Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

    Parent Company: General Mills
    2018 Sales: $344.3 million
    Boxes Sold: 105.2 million

    Cinnamon Toast Crunch is a hit around the globe, but it’s called different names in different countries. In the United States, this cereal was introduced in 1984. Obviously, designed to taste like cinnamon toast, the small squares of wheat and rice are covered in delicious cinnamon and sugar.

    The brand has made several varieties that have different flavors, such as Dulce de Lech and French Toast Crunch; they’ve also taken it a step further and come up with other products that feature their cinnamon toast flavor, including snack mixes, crunch treat bars, and even Cinnadust seasoning blend.

  6. Lucky Charms. Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

    Parent Company: General Mills
    2018 Sales: $283.4 million
    Boxes Sold: 86.4 million

    Lucky Charms was created in 1964 when some employees at General Mills were tasked with coming up with a new product that used their current cereals, Cheerios or Wheaties.

    One employee was inspired after a trip to the grocery store, and he decided to mix Cheerios with little pieces of circus peanuts. This little bit of genius made General Mills the first company to include marshmallows in cereal.

    Even the little marshmallow bits, “marbits,” have an interesting story as they are made with milk solids and feature a patent of their own. Interestingly, the company discovered that changing the marshmallows periodically helped their sales.

    This is why you may have noticed your favorite yellow moons or blue diamonds are missing. They’ve been replaced by a lot of different shapes in different colors over the years. As of April 2021, the charms have been given “powers,” and they’re supposed to be permanent. Only time will tell.

    Lucky the Leprechaun was also called Sir Charms and has been around just as long as the cereal has, except in New England, there the Leprechaun was briefly replaced by Waldo the Wizard in 1975, but happily, Lucky has returned.

  7. Froot Loops. Battle Creek, Michigan USA

    Parent Company: Kellogg’s
    2018 Sales: $269.1 million
    Boxes Sold: 91.7 million

    In 1963, Froot Loops hit the market with little circles shaped very much like Cheerios but colored red, yellow, and orange. The additional blue, purple, and green colors didn’t show up until the 1990s.

    While you’d think that each color represented a flavor, they actually all taste the same, and there’s no real fruit in these loops, but there is a fruity flavor.

    Froot Loops is another brand that knows its audience; they also have a delightful cartoon character that has become an icon for Toucan Sam’s brand.

    Since the very first marketing campaign, toucan has been associated with the cereal; the colors of his bill are meant to correspond with the colors of the cereal.

    If you look, you’ll see that Toucan Sam’s nose is red, orange, and yellow, the very same colors that the original cereal was. Well, that is until 2020.

    In 2020 Kellogg’s decided to give Toucan Sam a refresh and made him brighter, his nose became almost psychedelic in an attempt to represent more colors, and his eyes have an anime appearance.

  8. Frosted Mini-Wheats. Battle Creek, Michigan USA

    Parent Company: Kellogg’s
    2018 Sales: $241.9 million
    Boxes Sold: 71.3 million

    Frosted Mini-Wheats hit the United States in 1969, but it wasn’t the cereal you can buy on the shelves today. Still made of frosted shredded wheat bits, the original cereal was much larger.

    It wasn’t until 1980 that a bite-sized mini-wheat was created, which prompted them to rename the originals and call them the Big Bite in 2001, and by 2015, they dropped that size entirely.

    Because Frosted Mini-Wheats doesn’t really bank on its sugary and frosted component to sell to children, they’ve never created a truly iconic marketing character.

    The company goes back and forth between trying to appeal to kids, or at least to parents, and appealing to adults. The brand definitely promotes its “healthy” fiber content.

  9. Life. Chicago, Illinois USA

    Parent Company: Quaker Oats Company
    2018 Sales: $177.5 million
    Boxes Sold: 58.1 million

    Life cereal was introduced in 1961 and, being made by the Quaker Oats Company. It was originally made with oats. However, Oats no longer figure into the equation, but you can find oats in the Life Original Multigrain Cereal, which is actually the original Life variety.

    What most people remember about Life were the 1970s commercials featuring Little Mikey. This kid who hates everything, except apparently Life cereal, was featured in the ad campaign from 1972 to 1986, making it one of the longest-running television ads in history.

    The ad also won awards and was incredibly well-received and consistently listed as one of the most memorable commercials of all time. It’s spawned a few remakes and many spoofs.

    There have been quite a few varieties of Life over the years, most of the flavors have been short-lived, but Cinnamon Life, introduced in 1978, is still a favorite among consumers.

  10. Fruity Pebbles. St. Louis, Missouri USA

    Parent Company: Post Consumer Brands
    2018 Sales: $172.3 million
    Boxes Sold: 54.1 million

    Fruity Pebbles actually got their start as a cereal named Sugar Rice Krinkles, but that cereal wasn’t doing very well. In an effort to boost sales, they post licensed the use of the popular TV show and characters from The Flintstones for their cereal.

    While characters were often used to promote cereal, this was the first time an entire cereal was going to be branded around characters, and there were worries that this approach would be short-lived.

    The rebranded cereal was going to be named Flint Chips and Rubble Stones, but those names were ditched for the current Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles and introduced to the market in 1971.

    The original “mascots” were, of course, characters from The Flintstones and continue to be the mascots today. These two kinds of cereal are the oldest surviving cereal brands based on TV or movie characters. This dispels all of those fears about a short lifespan.

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Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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