Feature articles

Sugar in Australian Breakfast Cereals

rebecca williams.jpgDespite being core foods, breakfast cereals are often criticised for their high sugar content. The Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) have completed three product audits of breakfast cereals sold in Australia to detail their nutritional profile, and conducted three consumer consumption and attitudes surveys over the last 5 years(1-3). We asked Rebecca Williams, Dietitian from the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council to share the findings.

Rebecca Williams (MSc Nutrition & Dietetics) is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and the Nutrition Manager at the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC). She leads the GLNC nutrition science program and manages multiple projects to support GLNC’s position as the independent authority on the nutrition and health benefits of grains and legumes.

Which cereals are the most popular?

The GLNC 2014 Consumption and Attitudinal Study (3) found that 58% of Australians reported eating breakfast cereals. 

Wheat breakfast biscuits were the most commonly consumed followed by flaked cereals with added fruit/nuts and then porridge/oats (based on % consumers).

In the Consumption Study, breakfast cereals were categorised as follows, ie:

  • porridge oats (includes plain + with added fruits or flavour)
  • untoasted muesli with added fruit and/or nuts
  • toasted muesli or cluster style cereals
  • wheat breakfast biscuits, wheat breakfast bites and mini wheats
  • flaked cereals with added fruit/nuts
  • plain cereals with no added fruit/nuts
  • sweetened/flavoured or shaped cereals
  • high-fibre/bran cereals
  • gluten-free or wheat free breakfast cereals.

What did the audits find in terms of sugar content of cereals?

  • 15% (2015)-16.5%(2016) of breakfast cereals were classified as low in sugar, which means that they contained less than 5g of sugar per 100g.
  • The majority of breakfast cereals contain less than 20g of total sugars per 100g* and the proportion increased from 2015 to 2016 (2015: 63%, 2016: 68%).

More than half (2015: 51%, 2016: 55%) of all breakfast cereals and the majority of mueslis (2015: 77%, 2016: 83%) contained fruit, which is a significant contributor to total sugar content.

*<20g/100g is the ‘healthier choices’ criteria of the National Healthy School Canteens Guidelines

What proportion of cereals were “highly sweetened” as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the Australian Health Survey (>30g sugars/100g (no fruit); or >35g sugars/100g (with fruit)?

In the most recent audit (2016), no cereals with fruit contained more than 35g/100g, and less than one in ten (9%) ready-to-eat-cereals had more than 30g total sugars per 100g.

How much sugar do breakfast cereals contribute to the total and added sugar intake in Australia?

The 2011-13 Australian Health Survey showed that breakfast cereals are important, nutrient dense foods for Australians as they provide significant levels of essential nutrients such as iron, thiamine, folate and dietary fibre. Despite common misconceptions, breakfast cereals only contributed 3.4% of total sugars(4) and 3% of added sugars(5) to the diets of Australians aged 2 years and over.

NEXT: Added Sugar Consumption in New Zealand 


1. GLNC. Breakfast Cereal Audit 2015. Unpublished: Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council
2. GLNC. Breakfast Cereal Audit 2016. Unpublished: Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council
3. GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
4. ABS. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014.
5. ABS. Australian Health Survey: Consumption of added sugars, 2011-12  Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016.




Portion control, sugars intakes and more 


Sugar and health

How much sugar are we recommended to eat?


Frequently asked questions

Natural versus added sugars - what's the difference?