Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Froot Loops celebrates Canada's birthday

One of the aspects of cereal culture that has made it so endearing is the fun experiences that some brands and varieties provide. Despite the gloom and doom in the cereal industry, there are occasional glimpses of creativity, and we have discovered one example in Canada. According to Instagramers @junkfoodcanada and @candyhunting Kellogg is about to introduce a special edition of Froot Loops in conjunction with Canada's 150th birthday this year. Birthday Cake flavour Froot Loops look just plain fun, even though we will have to reserve full judgement until we have a taste.

Recently we have seen several innovative cereals showing up in the Great White North, such as Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch oatmeals. Who knows if any of these cereals will make it to the U.S. or other markets, but we can only hope!

(Image source: candyhunting)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Honey Nut Cheerios seeds of hope (or despair?)

It's finally spring, and with that General Mills is celebrating the arrival of the equinox with a marketing campaign mixed in with a dose of social responsibility. A couple of weeks ago the company launched #BringBacktheBees, a program designed to highlight the unexplained decline of bees in the world. To do so they utilized the best-selling cereal in North America, Honey Nut Cheerios, as the platform to get this message across. Specially marked boxes in the U.S. and Canada feature Buzz the Bee missing, with only a silhouette in its place. As part of the promotion consumers were invited to request a package of wildflower seeds so that they could contribute to nourishing the bees around them.

Apparently the seed giveaway has been a resounding success, even exceeding General Mills' goal. 1.5 billion seeds were distributed, and their website says they have none left. This is a feel good campaign that not only raises the profile of the cereal, but creates of lots of goodwill for the company as well.

Except, however, for some controversy. Apparently some environmentalists, as reported on Lifehacker, have urged people not to plant these seeds since many of them are flowers not native to the United States, and therefore not necessarily a good match for the bees. The fear is that this could actually cause more damage than good. General Mills countered these concerns on the Cheerios Facebook page claiming that "the seed varieties in the mix are not considered invasive."

Most of this "buzz" has been good, but it seems that cereal companies just cannot get it completely right nowadays!

Monday, February 27, 2017

The growing significance of Bear Naked

In the past month some new Bear Naked cereals have been appearing on some grocers' shelves. While that might not sound like big news, it actually is since these are the first of their cereals to come in boxes and not as pure granola plays. It appears that there are three new Bear Naked varieties: Chocolate Almond Clusters, Toasted Coconut Clusters, and Sweet Honey Clusters. While they contain granola clusters, these cereals are based around multigrain flakes.

I first came across Bear Naked 11 years ago, and at that time was impressed with their creative marketing and pouch packaging. Kellogg also took notice, and by the end of 2007 had purchased the cereal startup. Since then, despite some branding updates, Bear Naked has largely been a granola manufacturer. Things started to change, however, last year when they began a serious foray into custom cereals, the first time for one of the major cereal companies. Now, in 2017, with these new boxed cereals Bear Naked is ready for the mainstream. Within the larger Kellogg family Bear Naked appears to be focused on delivering hearty, natural cereals; a unique position compared to the health-food image of Kashi, and the more conventional varieties under the Kellogg label. It may also be that Bear Naked will accomplish what big K was hoping to accomplish in their lackluster Origins line launched two years ago.

Bear Naked is quickly emerging as a strong brand, and with continued focus could provide Kellogg a powerful new place in the minds of consumers.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The expanding Raisin Bran(d)

With the literally hundreds of cereal options available to consumers, manufacturers have a challenge keeping their brands from all the clutter. The trend in recent years is to build on already successful brands, instead of trying to launch out with something completely new. For this reason we now see super cereal brands like Honey Bunches of Oats, Cheerios, and Special K, each offering a myriad of flavor and nutrition variants in order to catch people's attention in the grocer's aisle. If you like a cereal such as regular Cheerios, it is not a big leap to venture out for some variety with flavors like chocolate, ancient grains, or honey nut.

The latest example of this strategy is Kellogg's Raisin Bran, one of the best selling cereals on the market. The Battle Creek company has been gradually adding new cereals to the Raisin Bran portfolio, including three quite recently: Crunch Apple Strawberry, Cranberry Almond Granola, and Raisin and Honey Granola. This now brings to seven the number of offerings with "two scoops of raisins" along with fiber-rich bran.

The new Crunch Apple Strawberry, in particular, looks real interesting, and something I definitely want to try. I suspect others will as well, and that is just the way Kellogg wants it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Is it time for hot cereal to be disrupted?

Over the past few weeks, several tips out of Canada (including a segment on NBC's Today Show) have revealed that General Mills is experimenting with some innovations to stodgy old oatmeal. For a limited time in the Great White North consumers can buy Lucky Charms Instant Oatmeal and Cinnamon Toast Crunch Instant Oatmeal. Pairing a traditional hot cereal with an irreverent, popular cold cereal brand is powerful. I am amazed no one has thought of this before.

For years I have been observing the slow, but growing trend toward oatmeal, and porridges in general. Hot cereal is a comfort food, and with the increased convenience factors (i.e. instant and single-serve packaging) offers a nutritious alternative to the typical cold cereals that dominate the marketplace. Already there are dozens of oatmeal brands readily available in the supermarket, and many more niche varieties as well.

General Mills told NBC that their Canadian experiment is an eight-week trial, and that "there are not any plans at this time to introduce the product in the United States." Porridges are somewhat more popular in Canada (any big surprise?), so this is a good test market for them. I would love to hear what General Mills learns from this venture, but I hope they decide to expand their offerings to more brands and to the U.S. as well. At minimum it could get children hyped over oatmeal!

I have long contended that with the breakfast cereal market in decline, innovation is critical. This could be an opportunity for the big players to extend their already well-known brands to hot cereal. Kellogg has already done this with Special K, but they all could benefit from following General Mills' lead with Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch and try other pairings. Some naturals that come to mind for me would be Apple Jacks, Cap'n Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, and Froot Loops. What about Boo Berry, Count Chocula and Franken Berry in the fall?

What fun, new hot cereals would you like to see?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Follow us on Instagram

Things have been quiet around the Breakfast Bowl lately, partly due to work we're doing to expand and improve our site and cereal banter.

One of the enhancements that we are happy to unveil right now is our new Instagram account. Be sure to follow us at @the_breakfast_bowl for photos about cereal, and especially boxes, including many from my collection!

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Year, New Cereals

January has typically been a prime occasion for cereal manufacturers to launch new products, and this new year is no exception. Here are some of the notable cereals to watch for in the U.S. this month (although a few hit store shelves a few weeks early):

Kellogg's Cinnamon Frosted Flakes - Kellogg probably has realized that they can do so much more with one of the most popular cereals out there, Frosted Flakes. While this is not the first variety ever introduced, it might be the most interesting.

Post Cinnamon Pebbles - Cinnamon has become a popular flavor in recent years, and Post (affirming what Kellogg's sees as well) is relying on that with its latest Pebbles iteration.

Kellogg's Keebler Cereal - Most people are not aware that the famous cookie brand Keebler is actually owned by Kellogg. This is not the first time the company has tried a Keebler cereal, but they are wise in making another attempt, and playing off a strong brand to attract consumers. The 2017 version claims to contain "real mini chocolate chip cookies."

General Mills' Girl Scouts - Announced back in the fall, General Mills is also expanding on its cookie offerings with a unique partnership with the Girl Scouts, and two fun cereal flavors.

General Mills' Very Berry Cheerios - This one has not been officially announced yet, but some sites such as JunkBanter and Cerealously have already come across it in stores. Not the first berry flavored Cheerios, but a bright new extension to this leading brand. The O's feature specks of real berry powders (i.e. blueberry, strawberry, cranberry and raspberry).

Regional differences and responsibility

It is hardly news when a special interest group criticizes the nutritional quality of breakfast cereals. So, a recent report from WASH (World Action on Salt and Health) would normally hardly catch our attention, except for one difference.

In WASH's international survey of breakfast cereals they discovered that not only are there big differences in salt and sugar content in global cereal brands, but that even among specific brands there can be dramatic differences from country to country. Again, the fact that there are regional variations among brands is no big shock, but upon closer examination these differences represent some disturbing implications.

The survey revealed, for example, that Kellogg's Honey Smacks have 25% more sugar in Mexico than the same cereals in Belgium, Spain, Morocco, Norway, Qatar, Kuwait and UAE. Similarly, Kellogg's Corn Flakes has 46% more salt than the same product in Argentina and Brazil. Again, this is likely due to different taste preferences in the various countries, but WASH is rightly concerned that big cereal companies like Kellogg and Nestle/General Mills are irresponsible in even offering foods with such high levels of sodium and sugar. The Honey Smacks example is particularly troubling since Mexico already has one of the highest obesity rates in the world.

Again, this all has to do with reputation and public relations, an issue we examined last week. Cereal companies are not immune from this public scrutiny, and need to work harder to establish themselves as brands that can be trusted by consumers who are increasingly cynical of cereal.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Kellogg and bad PR

Life has been very full the last couple of months, so writing here has been sparse. It's time to catch up, and look forward to expanded coverage coming in 2017! (Reminder: Keep up to date with cereal news and fun on our Facebook page @BreakfastBowl).

The cereal industry has taken some big hits in the past few years with declining sales amid frustrated efforts to turn things around. The big companies, like Kellogg, have been particularly impacted by these shifts, and cannot afford for anything else to further erode their businesses.

One can only imagine then the hand-wringing among executives in Battle Creek in the past month or so when not one, but two, stories stormed the media and threatened to take everyone's eyes off of Kellogg's cereal business, including the introduction of new products, such as new Cinnamon Frosted Flakes.

First, was an Associated Press report that Kellogg misled consumers by not making it clear that its "independent experts" who make up its Breakfast Council are, in fact, paid by the company. Then, only days later, Bloomberg reported that Kellogg pulled ads from the right-wing news site, Breitbart. This latter story could be seen as a positive for those with left political leanings, and a negative for Breitbart supporters (encouraged on by a boycott), but the point in all this is that ultimately Kellogg does not need any of this publicity.

At a time when the cereal industry is struggling, companies are going to have to be extra vigilant to ensure that their actions are carefully thought out, and consistently applied. There can be no room for bad PR to distract consumers. People today are watching closely, and want the brands they buy to be of the highest integrity and representative of their values. Getting media attention for the wrong reasons does nothing to help these perceptions.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bear Naked goes wild

Recently I highlighted the new custom cereal venture at Bear Naked, a Kellogg company. Since then I've placed my first order in order to test the process. Within a few days my canister arrived, presented in an attractive box, along with a handwritten note, thanking me for my order. The experience has been pleasant, reinforcing my observation that they are really trying hard to get this right.

Another feature of Bear Naked's version of customization is the inclusion of unique ingredients not commonly found in breakfast cereals, such as jalapeno, lavender, kale and olives. The whole point of that is to position granola as something that can be eaten not just at breakfast, but even at other times in the day when you want stronger, savory flavors. Since my first post, Bear Naked has added several more novel flavors that should definitely get consumers' attention. Most notable, are two non-alcoholic wine varieties, and also a bourbon flavor.

Not having tried any of these truly wild flavors, I can't really comment as to whether these types of granola will start a new eating trend. At minimum, however, these bold additions to the ingredient options should generate buzz, whether or not people actually try them. Of course, the key will be marketing, something I haven't really seen too much of so far.

Give Bear Naked credit for an worthy experiment, and we'll keep watching to see if this adds new life to the cereal industry in the U.S.