Friday, August 18, 2017

Kellogg is ramping up new restaurant experience

As further confirmation of my recent suggestion that we are entering a new era of cereal restaurants, Kellogg just days later announced that they will be launching a "new immersive cereal experience" in New York city, this winter.

In the meantime, this past Sunday the company shut down Kellogg's NYC, their much touted concept restaurant in Times Square to prepare for the move to downtown. With the success they experienced, and from what they learned in the process, it was determined that their initial location was too small. Now they have grander plans in mind: "Significantly larger than our current location, the new spot will be able to contain an explosion of cereal inspiration and fun... [and] a more immersive experience and new kitchen to explore cereal in exciting, fresh ways throughout your day.

Kellogg is not saying much more at this time, but it is clear that they are thinking big and "outside the box." This could contribute further to expansion of cereal restaurants, not only by Kellogg, but other companies as well.

We'll be watching!

(Photo source: Kellogg's NYC)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Has the time finally arrived for cereal restaurants?

Business concepts typically go through natural cycles. Usually, someone launches a new innovation, getting lots of attention, including that from copycats who jump on the bandwagon wanting to cash in on the potential. Eventually, however, the initial enthusiasm is not enough to sustain the idea, creating many causalities along the way, and often consolidation. Eventually, however, once clearer minds are able to better understand the industry and what is required to succeed in it, a second wave of growth occurs. At this point, more mature individuals and companies emerge to lead and dominate. History is full of examples of this, ranging from things like the automobile to computers to podcasting.

A perfect case in point for us are cereal restaurants. It was twelve years ago this month that I first noticed this concept, with a new chain called Cereality. The following couple of years saw other companies open cereal bars as well, but after some lawsuits and many failures, things settled down. Even the pioneer, Cereality, began to struggle, and was eventually bought out by Coldstone Creamery. Today, Cereality has one location remaining, in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport.

Then things were relatively quiet for a few years, until 2014 when two brothers got tremendous media coverage (and even controversy at times) for the launch of the Cereal Killer Café in London. Since that time a number of entrepreneurs, and even Kellogg's itself, took a fresh look at the concept, and we are seeing a whole new level of activity across several countries. Some of these are small local joints, but others are being launched with sophisticated marketing and savvy, like the soon to be opened The Cereal Box in Arvada, Colorado and Barley in Montreal.

I'm convinced we'll see more of this. Certainly, some will flounder, but others will carve out a whole new niche. I would not be surprised to see the big cereal companies follow on the heels of Kellogg's NYC experiment, and set up cereal cafes across the country in strategic locations to highlight and strengthen their brands.

These could be exciting times!

(Photo source: Kellogg NYC)

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Kellogg UK to sell cereal advent calendar

Cereal lovers in the United Kingdom are excited this week, with news that Kellogg will be selling an Advent Calendar, as a special edition of its Variety Pack collection. That's 24 single-serving boxes of cereal to help countdown the days of December leading up to Christmas!

Gimmick? Of course. But, it's the type of creative marketing that is simple to implement, with the potential for generating some positive cereal attention. To be sure, this is the not the first cereal advent calendar. MyMuesli in Germany has been making these for several years, and with much more finesse. But, Kellogg's attempt is noteworthy, as it comes from one of the big companies.

I have reached out to Kellogg U.S. to find out if we can expect this on our side of the pond, but so far no word if we can expect this gift for Christmas.

(Source: Good Housekeeping)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The expanding world of cereal lines

Our recent report of interesting, new Post Shredded Wheat varieties was a good reminder of how the bulk of new cereals (not including limited edition one-offs) coming out today are extensions of existing lines. At one time, during cereals' heyday, almost every new cereal was launched as its own brand. Those days are long over, with very few new cereal brands introduced by the major players. In fact, when General Mills launched Tiny Toast last year they proudly claimed that it was the first new brand in 15 years, a position I challenged at the time. Interestingly, just a couple of months ago that experiment quickly ended, as the two Tiny Toasts were absorbed into the Toast Crunch line.

In many ways this makes sense, as people are less loyal to or interested in the cereal companies themselves, and it is difficult for new brands to stand out. Consumers gravitate to known and trusted brands, and line extensions are a convenient way for companies to introduce new cereals. If you want to make a chocolate flavored cereal, instead of trying to drum up a new brand, just piggy back on an existing one like Cheerios, or Shredded Wheat. It seems now that virtually every permanent cereal line has been extended to some extent, with some of the more notable ones being Cheerios (13 varieties), Honey Bunches of Oats (12 varieties), Special K (17 cereals plus other food products), and Chex (8 varieties). We also see special edition and seasonal cereals joining lines for a short period on such brands as Cap'n Crunch and Pebbles.

While we still have tons of cereal brands to choose from, in reality the number has basically levelled off. Instead, we have super-brands that dominate grocery store shelves and consumers minds. This makes it much more difficult for new brands to get noticed, but on the other hand, could be a tremendous opportunity for an exciting new brand that wants to disrupt the market.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Post brings new life to a stodgy brand

There have been a lot of new cereals hitting the shelves in the past few months, as cereal companies try everything possible to garner attention. Some are more exciting than others, with the majority hardly likely to make much traction. But, another recent introduction has captured my attention, and this one also comes from Post. They have launched three new varieties of their Shredded Wheat line, one of the oldest cereal brands out there. Shredded Wheat whether as the original biscuit, or one of the Spoon Size versions, is hearty, healthy cereal; but not cereals that most consumers pay attention to.

The new Shredded Wheat cereals are frosted spoon size biscuits. On the surface, this might sound hardly unique, especially in light of Kellogg's highly successful Mini-Wheats line. But, Post (quietly and quickly moving to become the most significant cereal company) did not just to spit out another knock-off. The flavors are bold: cinnamon roll, mixed berry, and s'mores bites. And the packaging jumps off the shelf with color and energy. I am sure people will want to try them. I do!

If it is possible to make Shredded Wheat interesting, then anything is possible at time when the cereal industry needs some big wins.



Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bringing Back the Oldies

A few weeks ago word was out that Post would be re-introducing a notable cereal that was discontinued over a decade ago. Oreo O's cereal was a novel branding coup when it first came out in 1998, and had many fans. Unfortunately, enthusiasm waned, and eventually the famous cookie inspired cereal was pulled from the market. Now that the Oreo brand has gone into hyper-mode with virtually every flavor combination possible in cookies, Post saw this as a great time to bring it back in its cereal form. Cereal and Oreo fans have been ecstatic.

The real story, however, is not just the return of this particular cereal, but about the comeback of nostalgic cereals. This is the not the first time for such a revival. General Mills did it not too long ago with French Toast Crunch, and a short-term resurrection of two almost forgotten monster cereals. Also coming soon, is Post Honey Maid S'mores cereal (a Honey Maid cereal was also first introduced about 10 years ago, before disappearing).

The point in all this is that for cereal companies looking for growth opportunities, bringing back nostalgic cereals could be one effective strategy. Most of us grew up with certain memorable cereals on our kitchen tables, and nothing would generate an emotional response like getting an opportunity to try again one a cereal like Freakies, OK's, Pink Panther Flakes, etc. (Another approach that companies have used is to simply provide vintage packaging on existing cereals to tap into our memories of the past).

Sure, the reality of reintroduced cereals might not live up to our memories of them, but, it would certainly generate some significant short-term sales, and perhaps one or two of these oldies could become a hit again. At minimum, this would generate some interest in cereal again at time when people seem to be pulling away.

What cereal would you like to see return?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cinnamon Toast Crunch is Hitting the Road

We all know cereal sales have slumped. People are just not shopping the cereal aisle of the grocery store. So, what does a cereal company do? Go to the consumer.

General Mills announced today that they will be going on a road trip this summer with a portable Drive Thru promoting Cinnamon Toast Crunch, currently their brand getting the most creative marketing campaigns. This pop up pit stop is targeted to people on road trips, with the first one showing up this weekend at the Grand Canyon. Travellers can sample the cereal, which will include special recipe concoctions. While their press release does not explicitly say so, it sounds like we could see the big cereal box and milk carton in other prominent tourist locations across the U.S. over the next two months.

Again, General Mills has been doing some fun marketing with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, including a selfie spoon offer, among other things. While limited in scope and actual reach, campaigns like this can contribute to a greater brand profile and buzz. Interestingly, General Mills' European partner, Nestle, has also been experimenting with pop-up promotions in malls in Ireland.

So, watch for this new Drive Thru coming to a tourist trap near you this summer. Where would you like to see one?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Burger King Gets Lucky

First it was Froot Loops, but now two months, later Burger King looks like it's serious about cereal flavored frozen foods with the introduction of the Lucky Charms shake. This time General Mills gets the nod, giving restaurant customers a reason to spend more by purchasing this novelty featuring one of their beloved cereals. Sure, it's a gimmick, but a smart tie-in for the both the fast food and cereal giants. Although, at 740 calories and 107g of sugar, if you eat too many of these you might not live enough to remain a customer.

What other cereal flavors would you like to see in a shake or frozen dessert?



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wheaties is looking to the stars (again)

The most frequent editorial comments on The Breakfast Bowl have concerned Wheaties. I have often wondered why General Mills has not taken better advantage of this iconic brand, especially in marketing to men. Sure, they tried several different strategies over the years, and for a time appeared to have success (or at least prominent brand position) by focusing on big name sports leagues, teams and players. But, about ten years ago, sales were soggy and Wheaties had become mediocre. In 2009 they tried by introducing Wheaties FUEL, but that was not well executed. Since then, the company has appeared to be floundering with Wheaties, lacking clarity and marketing focus. Most recently they tried going after the younger crowd with extreme sports, but I doubt that has achieved its goal.

Last month, however, we saw a glimpse of perhaps a new strategy. Or, at least an old strategy revived. General Mills announced that the young golfing sensation, Jordan Spieth, has now signed on with Wheaties and will be gracing the front of a new box coming very soon. Spieth is a big name, and for many is the new Tiger Woods, another Wheaties alumnus. Obviously, the Big G is hoping that his prominence will sell many orange boxes, and perhaps push new energy into the Wheaties brand. It is the first really big star in many years, and could be a sign that, if this works, we could see more big names back on the boxes. (By the way, yes basketball great Stephen Curry was on Wheaties not long ago, but General Mills was going the cheap route - he only appeared in street clothes, as including him in a Warriors uniform would complicated the arrangement due to licensing costs, etc.).

Overall, getting Jordan Spieth on Wheaties is a good move. I am not convinced, however, that it is a strong long-term strategy. Ultimately, General Mills needs to do more with the Wheaties brand, and part of that might mean a close look at the cereal itself.

In the meantime, we'll be watching the stars.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

When brands are toast

There has been much buzz in recent days as General Mills has revamped and expanded its line of "Toast" cereals, built around the highly successful and popular Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The company just announced the introduction of Apple Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and a re-branding of last year's strawberry and blueberry Tiny Toast cereals to also join the family. Along with French Toast Crunch, there are now five Toast Crunch cereals, creating a strong sub-brand, a growing trend in the cereal industry. Previously, there have been other flavors as well, including chocolate, and peanut butter.

Of course, the new Apple Cinnamon flavor sounds delightful. But, of most interest here is the quick re-branding of the two Tiny Toast varieties introduced just one year ago. At the time, General Mills touted this as a new brand, but I questioned the strategy, wondering why they did not go with the Toast Crunch designation. One analyst, quoted in Ad Age, suggested that they went the Tiny Toast route to get more attention and grocer's shelf space. Regardless, the company has allowed common sense to prevail, and now they have a strong family of cereals that should be a leader within their portfolio.