Tuesday, July 26, 2016

New Look at Kashi

Kellogg owned cereal-maker Kashi recently unveiled a fresh new look intended to reflect "its belief that food should not only taste good, but do good." The new design includes its revised logo, and packaging that is contemporary and simple in appearance. The boxes certainly stand out for their clean look, avoiding most of the visual clich├ęs common on cereal boxes such as a bowl of cereal, and excessive design elements. Instead the focus is on ingredients and cereal itself at the most basic level. The back of the boxes feature stories of "how the food was made and where it comes from – including employees, farmers and friends of Kashi who had a deep impact on it."

For quite sometime Kashi has struggled to find itself as a natural and health-conscious brand in the Kellogg portfolio, while becoming more and more mainstream in its distribution. Packaging has always been a big part of cereal's success and place within our culture, and this new look, while basically simple, should give the brand new life, if applied consistently across its product line. In my opinion, it's also a far superior effort than the cartoonish appearance of the new Annie's cereals recently launched by General Mills.

What do you think of the new look?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Kellogg seeks innovation via startups

Without sounding like a broken record, the key to the resurgence of cereal is innovation. We have also seen that much of that innovation is coming from small companies, eager to try new things, but often without the adequate resources to do so. The large companies are often too entrenched in their ways and culture to really effect creative change.

Silicon Valley has long been the hotbed for tech innovation, fueled by venture capitalists investing in the wild (and sometimes crazy) ideas of entrepreneurs. The cereal industry, desperately needing an injection of life, is now trying the same thing. Last fall we indicated that General Mills launched 301 INC to do just that. Not to be outdone, Kellogg is the latest to join the trend.

Kellogg recently announced the formation of eighteen94 capital (1894) to "to make minority investments in companies pursuing next-generation innovation, bolstering access to cutting-edge ideas and trends. The investment mandate includes start-up businesses pioneering new ingredients, foods, packaging, and enabling technology." Approximately $100 million will be invested.

To be fair, 1894 is not just about cereal, but food innovation more broadly. But, hopefully some of this rub off on a cereal industry needing some fresh ideas

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Annie's cereals now available nationally

If you look around the "natural" section of the cereal aisle of many U.S. grocery stories you will probably see the new Annie's organic cereals. They are widely available nationwide now, and come in three varieties: Berry Bunnies, Cocoa Bunnies, and Frosted Oat Flakes.

On the surface this might seem like a relatively insignificant development, especially since "health food" branded cereals are a small and niche, albeit growing, market. Upon closer examination, however, this is a significant story because it involves one of the major players: General Mills.

The story started back in September 2014 when General Mills announced that they would be acquiring Annie's, which had become a well-known player in natural and organic foods targeted to families. Recognizing the growing interest in more nutritious foods among consumers, General Mills saw an opportunity to expand its offerings by adding a recognized and respected brand to its portfolio. Annie's is, however, far more than cereal - they make a wide range of food products. In fact, cereal is not one of their traditional strengths. They first tried back in 2007, but quickly discontinued the line. General Mills, a leader in cereal, wanted them to try again, hence the current three new ones first announced back in February, but only now widely available.

Of course, Annie's is not General Mills' only line of more natural cereals, as they already have the Cascadian Farms brand. But, in this time of frustrating cereal sales, companies are attempting whatever they can to change their fortunes. General Mills is hoping that the Annie's brand will be part of the solution.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Kellogg tries bilingual again

A look at recent Kellogg's cereal boxes reveals some subtle, but significant changes. Specifically, the company is now incorporating Spanish in the Nutrition Facts panel, and on the front weight listing. I have detected this on a wide range of cereals, including Corn Flakes, Apple Jacks, Frosted Flakes, and more.

I asked Kellogg about this, and here is their response:
"Kellogg offers a selection of products in bilingual packaging to welcome our ever-growing Hispanic population with their favorites here in the United States. Because our packages communicate important nutrition information, it is important to provide key elements in Spanish for these consumers. By offering the Nutrition Facts in Spanish and English, the nutrient value of the products is easily understood."
Bilingual packaging is not completely new for Kellogg. They have gone completely bilingual on cereals targeted specifically to Hispanics, as when they introduced Choco Zucaritas and Touch of Honey Corn Flakes in the United States. Of course, in other countries, such as Canada, bilingual labelling has long been the norm. It is not required in the U.S., but obviously they feel this is a way that they can assist and appeal to Hispanic consumers, who are a growing demographic in this country, but not necessarily big breakfast cereal eaters. Considering how cereal companies are struggling, any little move like this could be seen as a tactic to bolster their market share.

Who knows, if more and more Hispanics take to cereal, might we someday see many fully bilingual cereal boxes?

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Kellogg's NYC - More than just another cereal cafe

Last week Kellogg made a big cereal bowl splash with the announcement of a new restaurant that opened on Monday, July 4th. They state that Kellogg's NYC "will serve dishes featuring Kellogg's cereals combined with unique ingredients, all served with a side of fun. Kellogg's NYC will be a destination that reminds guests of home and drives new curiosity around the cereal bowl."

Cereal cafes are not new - we've been monitoring them here for years. Most have been small, independent restaurants, such as one that just opened in Tulsa, Oklahoma yesterday. None, however, have really taken off, at least not nationally. In the last couple of years, however, things have changed, largely because of the attention given to Cereal Killer Cafe in London, a bold new concept that has garnered both positive and negative reactions. Kellogg must have liked what they saw, and decided to give it a try themselves. With the growing realization that cereal is quickly losing ground, especially among millennials, they have no choice but to innovate and try new strategies.

This is big news, mainly because one of the major players is involved. While this is certainly experimental, for Kellogg to seriously commit to this prototype is evidence of a willingness to step outside the box (pun intended). This is an opportunity for them to present cereal in a fresh, fun new way, and to strengthen their brand.

Here's a quick video look of Kellogg's NYC, via CBS:

Let's not be fooled. One restaurant in Times Square is not, by itself, going to turn around the plight of the cereal industry. And, of course, there are many critics out there (such as this article in the Guardian), most of them aghast over the fact that a bowl of cereal could cost as much as $7.50. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant move that could really strengthen Kellogg's brand. Instead of going after the crowded low-end of the market, by elevating cereal to the high-end, both in terms of price and gourmet-style mixtures, they have an opportunity to tell a new story about cereal and provide exciting new experiences. While we may never see Kellogg's cereal cafes as ubiquitous as McDonalds or Starbucks, a strategic expansion of these restaurants in key cities and locations across the U.S, Canada and the U.K. could invigorate new interest for cereal, not just for breakfast, but for almost any time of the day.  

We'll be watching.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The possibilities of custom packaging

I don't want to sound like a broken record, but one of the most impressive innovators in the cereal industry is mymuesli of Germany, which has been featured here on several occasions. Their major contribution is the successful development of a model for custom cereals, which some American companies have attempted, but so far have failed.

Part of the appeal of mymuesli is the comprehensive experience they provide consumers. It's not just custom recipes they provide, but so much more; and that now includes an experiment with custom packaging. This level of personalization engages customers, and makes buying and eating cereal lots of fun.

Heidelberg, the large German company that makes commercial printers, has partnered with the cereal company to setup a custom printer in one of mymuesli's stores so that customers can walk out with a canister featuring their selected text and images.

Read Heidelberg's press release on this innovation, and consider the possibilities of well-established U.S. cereal companies could catch a vision for a whole new level of innovation!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Toast goes Tiny

Last week General Mills proudly announced what they call, "our first new cereal brand in 15 years." Tiny Toast cereal is "shaped like small pieces of toast sprinkled with blueberries and strawberries," and is the result of extensive research and development.

On the positive side, it is good to see some new cereals, with bold, fun packaging that should grab consumer attention in the grocer's aisle. The whole miniature toast experience will liven up the breakfast table, at least on the short-term.

I take exception, however, to General Mills calling this a NEW cereal brand. Perhaps it is a distinctly named brand, but the small toast concept is hardly new for GM. What about Cinnamon Toast Crunch, French Toast Crunch, Chocolate Toast Crunch, and others? Obviously, the earlier "toast" varieties have been very successful, so why not expand on it? But, in light of that, to call this a new brand is a stretch.

Nevertheless, we'll watch (and taste) to see if Tiny Toast is a way for people to keep cereal at the forefront of their breakfast menu.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

MixMyOwn: Another custom cereal maker shuts down

Custom cereal MixMyOwn has announced that today, June 5th, is their final day of operation. In an email sent to customers a few weeks ago they said,
"We want to thank you for your past business and tell you how much we have enjoyed doing this business. We started this with a lot of energy, motivation and hope, but it was not enough. There are many reasons why it did not turn out as we needed and now we want to focus on our other business, which is doing better."
Sadly, this is not the first custom cereal company to fold. We are aware of least three other U.S. ventures that have come and gone over the past decade: [me]&goji, MixMyGranola, and Custom Choice. MixMyOwn was the newest of these, starting only three years ago. Despite the valiant efforts of their European founders, the U.S. market did not respond as they had hoped.

I have long contented that custom cereals is a promising innovation that could help shake-up the cereal industry. Of course, the proof of this is in the brilliance of the concept's originator, mymuesli of Germany. The U.S. imitators tried hard to copy their success, but obviously could not do it. This is not Germany, but the U.S. where the cereal market is well established and entrenched. But, in an environment where the industry desperately needs a revival, the underlying approach should work. In my view, for it work here massive investment will be necessary to give it the kick-start it needs to gain traction. None of the previous attempts had that. Depending on a simple e-commerce model was not adequate for them.

It is sad to see an innovator disappear, but hopefully the lessons learned from their experience will help others who have a vision for this type of company. I still believe that a well-funded, well-crafted, U.S. take on mymuesli could be one of the recipes for success that cereal industry needs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

WE HAVE A WINNER! Quaker Oatmeal Squares

Two months ago I launched an endeavor to determine the favorite cereal among my followers. Utilizing a bracketed playoff system inspired by college basketball's "March Madness", dozens of cereals were included in online polls. Thank you to all of you who participated in this lengthy process! It has been arduous, but in the end, after hundreds of votes, we finally have a winner!

The 2016 March Cereal Madness winner goes to Quaker Oatmeal Squares!

For full disclosure this is actually my favorite go-to cereal, so it might be easy for others to see that this result was fixed. I did vote in all the polls, but only once each time, so I know that my single vote is not the whole story. Obviously, through a process of elimination there are many, many others out there who also love this cereal.

This was not expected. I really thought the winner would be one of the super popular cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios, or favorites like Lucky Charms, Frosted Flakes, and so on. And, while most of these moved along in the brackets, in the end Corn Pops and Oatmeal Squares made the finals, with the latter winning with a 57.14% decision!

What is so special about Oatmeal Squares? As a fan myself I believe that in addition to the hint of brown sugar taste, texture is a big part of the story. These squares are crunchy, even in milk, and make for a hearty breakfast.

Congratulations to Quaker for having a true winner in Oatmeal Squares. (Interestingly, they had another cereal, Life, that made it to the Final Four!).

If you have never tried this exceptional cereal (or if it's been awhile) be sure to get a box and see what the rave is all about!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

March Cereal Madness - CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND!

This is part of our quest to discover the best cereal, according to you the true fans! Each day a new poll will be taken, leading to an eventual winner. For more information check the original post.

OK, it's actually MAY, but after dozens of head-to-head battles and hundreds of votes, we have finally arrived at our FINAL TWO cereals (and they're not ones most of us would have predicted)! To vote for the champion, check out this poll (you only have until midnight May 9th to vote).


Qualification Round 1 - Honey Nut Cheerios
Qualification Round 2 - Original Special K
Qualification Round 3 - Honey Bunches of Oats with Real Strawberries
Qualification Round 4 - Rice Chex
Qualification Round 5 - Mini-Wheats Original
Qualification Round 6 - Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch

Round 1
All Bran vs. Honey Nut Cheerios
Alpha-Bits vs. Apple Jacks
Rice Chex vs. Corn Bran Crunch
Cocoa Puffs vs. Cookie Crisp
Corn Flakes vs. Crispix
Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch vs. Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Fiber One vs. Frosted Mini-Wheats Original
Corn Pops vs. French Toast Crunch
Grape Nuts vs. Honey Bunches of Oats with Real Strawberries (TIE)
Froot Loops vs. Frosted Flakes
Kix vs. Life
Golden Crisp vs. Golden Grahams
Oatmeal Squares vs. Raisin Bran
Honeycomb vs. Honey Smacks
Rice Krispies vs. Shredded Wheat
Krave vs. Lucky Charms
Special K Original vs. Total
Fruity Pebbles vs. Reese's Puffs
Trix vs. Waffle Crisp

Round 2
Honey Nut Cheerios vs. Rice Chex
Apple Jacks vs. Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Crispix vs. Frosted Mini-Wheats Original
Cocoa Puffs vs. Corn Pops
Grape Nuts vs. Life
Frosted Flakes vs. Golden Grahams
Honey Bunches of Oats with Real Strawberries vs. Oatmeal Squares
Honey Smacks vs. Lucky Charms
Rice Krispies vs. Special K Original (TIE)
Reese's Puffs vs. Waffle Crisp

Round 3
Frosted Mini-Wheats Original vs. Honey Nut Cheerios
Cinnamon Toast Crunch vs. Corn Pops
Frosted Flakes vs. Lucky Charms
Rice Krispies vs. Wheaties
Oatmeal Squares vs. Special K Original

Round 4
Honey Nut Cheerios vs. Life
Reese's Puffs vs. Corn Pops
Rice Krispies vs. Oatmeal Squares

Round 5
Lucky Charms vs. Corn Pops
Life vs. Oatmeal Squares