From smoothies to drinkable oatmeal, food makers bet busy Americans want liquid meals

Muscle Milk apparently isn’t just for athletes. It’s also for busy people who want to drink their meals.

Hormel, which is best known for its canned meats like Spam, said late Monday that it will buy the maker of Muscle Milk for $450 million. CEO Jeff Ettinger said Muscle Milk’s fans have expanded beyond serious athletes, with many customers now drinking it for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack.

The demand for portable, easy-to-eat foods has been growing, and Hormel isn’t the only company hoping that can include liquid food that comes in the convenience bottle.

Here are some other examples:

— Campbell Soup in 2012 announced it was buying Bolthouse Farms, which offers products including premium juices and bottled smoothies.

— General Mills Inc. introduced a dairy-based drink last year called “BFast” that has whole grains and promises the nutrition of a bowl of cereal and milk.

— Kellogg Co. also rolled out its “Breakfast To Go,” which is positioned as a drinkable cereal.

— PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has noted the company is looking at ways to “drinkify” snacks. The company’s Naked juices are already seen as falling into that area because of the various nutrients they provide.

— PepsiCo’s Quaker Oats division also now offers a breakfast shake at select retailers that is positioned as oatmeal in a bottle — it boasts of 8 grams of whole grain oats, 10 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber.