Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Technology to address sugar

Earlier this summer General Mills applied for a patent to reduce sugar in breakfast cereals, but without changing other important properties such as texture, appearance or bowl life. This is accomplished by coating the cereal in high-intensity sweeteners (i.e. maltodextrins, which are essentially short chains of glucose molecules).

The real point of this patent is not actually the technology itself, which, by the way, is fairly innovative. What matters are the problems that this solves. Consumers are wanting a reduction in sugar, but simply reducing the amount of sucrose creates its own issues. Obviously, less sugar means blander taste. In addition, the baked sugar in cereal is what gives it its crunch, brown color, and helps keep it from getting soggy. In other words, changing the recipe is not simple as it sounds.

Because of these extra properties that come from sugar, one cannot just use an alternative ingredient, such as an artificial sweetener (which has additional drawbacks for consumers) or fruit juice, etc. Again, you might help with the actual sweetness, but many of the other desirable properties will be compromised.

Food science may be one of the strategies that could help the big cereal companies address the needs and high demands of consumers, while maintaining a great breakfast experience. In this example, General Mills might just be on to something.

SOURCE: Food Business News

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Monsters and other seasonal cereals

This isn't new (it was actually announced almost a month ago), and it's hardly news (since it happens every year at this time), nevertheless, it's that time of year again when General Mills unveils the latest edition of their monster cereals. This year's Halloween specials are the same, familiar crew: Boo Berry, Count Chocula and Franken Berry. Of course the box design is tweaked, and this year we see the introduction of "monster marshmallows."

Ho hum. Perhaps. But, the truth is that if these three cereals were available year round their ubiquitousness would have killed them long ago. In fact, that almost happened, and two of the monster team (Frute Brute and Yummy Mummy) are no longer with us (despite a brief resurrection in 2013). To prevent the whole franchise going down, General Mills adopted a strategy that now makes them one of the most anticipated cereal events of the year: They are only made available in conjunction with Halloween, and then put to sleep for the rest of the year. Their annual fresh appearance generates lots of attention, and I'm sure, sales.

While this is the best example of a seasonal strategy for cereals, there are some others as well. For example, Cap'n Crunch typically has a "Christmas Crunch" edition, with red and green pieces. The recent trend of Pumpkin Spice appears to be another case, with last year's four cereal contenders back again for 2017. There are other, less prominent, examples as well.

I wonder if cereal companies could do more to capitalize on the annual rhythm of the calendar, and offer special editions that are come out regularly each year around the same time? For example, the Advent calendar concept offers many possibilities. What about a Peeps cereal at Easter? Seasonal cereals could be a tremendous opportunity to generate new interest and reduce boredom at the breakfast table. The cereal industry needs that.


Friday, September 01, 2017

Cereals that "move"

Today, cereals have to stand out in order gain attention among consumers. Typically, the approach is to make either fun cereals or those that are focused on health and nutrition. What if you could combine the two?

Probably the best example of creative, "out of the box" thinking among health-oriented cereals comes from two irreverent startup brands that highlight high fiber and the effects it can have on the digestive system. These cereals definitely get noticed, mainly through their names. Snickers and juvenile reactions aside, it seems to be working, at least for one of them, so far.

Eight years, a small Canadian firm came up with Holy Crap, and since then it has become a well-known, albeit niche brand in that country, but also available in some U.S. stores as well, and online. While the name is bold, the cereal is no-nonsense health food, and now comes in several varieties, and some line extensions.

Now, building on that outlandishness, a U.S. cereal maker has come up with Poop Like a Champion. Their website has a Monty Python feel to it, which is just the anti-establishment feel they are going for. The "ultra high fiber" cereal contains 16g of roughage, and bills itself as "The Number 1 High Fiber Cereal for Number 2's." It appears to be available only on Amazon at this time.

While this type of bathroom humor marketing has its limits, it does represent the fresh approach that may be needed for some cereals to get noticed in today's stuffy cereal marketplace.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Krispies art

From time to time, I have highlighted various artists who have used cereal as their medium. Some of the creations have been amazing, but few have found a sustained niche in cereal art. Except, perhaps for Jessica Siskin, "Misterkrisp," who has masterfully created almost daily works of art predominately using Rice Krispies for a couple of years now. Her Instagram account has over 54,000 followers, a testament to her take on one of North America's leading treats.

While I have highlighted her work before, what is noteworthy now is the release of Siskin's new book, Treat Yourself, a colorful guide for anyone who wants to make Pinterest-worthy creations to eat or just display. If you want to bring more fun back into cereal, this is definitely one way to do it!


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?