Friday, June 20, 2014

Kellogg and Danone team up for convenience

One of the reason for cereals' recent decline is the desire by many people for greater convenience. Many want to eat on the run and don't have time to sit down to a bowl of cereal. Over the years there have been numerous attempts to make cereal more convenient, with cereal bars the biggest winner.

Kellogg is trying yet again, and this time they have partnered with global yogurt maker Danone to have several varieties of cereal like Special K, Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops atop a bowl of Greek yogurt, a very popular food right now. This will fit into Danone's YoCrunch brand where combo packages of toppings and yogurt have long been for sale. The purchaser simply mixes the two together for greater flavor and texture.

This appears to be a win-win situation for both companies, and might start a new trend for cereal consumption.

(Source: Marketwatch)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

General Mills and numbers

Cereal companies continue to look for an edge in today's competitive market. This means finding a way to stand out among the countless varieties of cereals on the grocers shelf. Recently, we've seen some creative innovation among some upstarts, but the big companies sometime appear a little more desperate.

A good example of some puzzling attempts comes from General Mills. Like all the big companies they've been trying to figure out how to have consistent revenue growth from cereal. It hasn't helped that they've recently had some public relations disasters which have not helped their cause. Their latest tactic is go for the nutrition conscious consumers, knowing that many are looking for cereals with more protein and less carbs. So, they recently introduced some protein-rich varieties of certain cereals, most notably Cheerios Protein, in two flavors, Oats & Honey and Cinnamon Almond. There are others as well, including a Fiber One Protein cereal.

It sounds good, except for one thing. In order to achieve this perception of high protein they've been less than forthcoming. They tout the fact that Cheerios Protein contains 11g of protein per serving with milk. That's all fine and dandy, but when you look a little closer at the numbers it's not as impressive as it might appear. First, that number does include milk. Factor that out (because you will probably use milk regardless whatever cereal you eat) and you are left with 7g of protein per serving. Still not shabby, but again somewhat misleading. A careful look at the Nutrition Facts reveals that these calculations are based on a 55g serving. What is interesting to note is that original, regular Cheerios have 3g of protein per serving. Obviously the new Protein variety has much more. Right? Not so quick. Regular Cheerios is based on a 28g serving, half the size. So, if you compare by equal weight measurements the actual difference is far less impressive, probably closer to a 1g margin. Looking at the Fiber One Protein cereal comparison with its original counterpart, the same game is being played.

To be fair, General Mills is truthful, both implicitly and explicitly. Cheerios Protein does have more protein, but the problem is that it's really not that significant. Oat-based cereals are already higher in protein than most cereals, so considering the real advantage of this new product this whole thing appears to be nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Consumers who don't take the time to read the labels or who are not well-versed in nutrition might be left with an impression that is well overstated.

It is shenanigans like this that is turning off many consumers to the mainline cereal brands. If General Mills wants to strengthen their market share a good place to start might be with less hype and a higher degree of honesty and transparency.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: Love Grown Power O's

It's been awhile since I've last done a cereal review. I like doing them and would love to do more, but I'm not into reviewing every new variety of Special K, Cheerios, etc. that hits the grocers' shelves. Instead, for my readers' sakes I want to try new cereals that are truly interesting or innovative.

Love Grown Power O's are a great way to get back into review mode. I wrote about them a few weeks ago, intrigued by the fact that they are made with some unusual ingredients, namely beans (navy beans, garbanzo beans, plus lentils and brown rice). Curiosity alone prompted me to want to try them. Unfortunately, I couldn't find them in any stores near me, so the good people at Love Grown sent me a box of each of the four flavors so that I could discover whether this is all hype or truly the next great thing in cereal history.

I do occasionally receive cereal samples from companies, but do not feel compelled to review them. In fact, this is the first time I have actually done so - normally I buy my own cereals. This is definitely an exception. I think we all want to know whether breakfast cereals made from beans are worth buying, and for your benefit I will be the guinea pig.

I am also going outside of my normal protocol by reviewing four different varieties at once. This is such a unique, niche product that I felt it would be best to lump them all together in one review. The four flavors are: Original, Chocolate, Honey and Strawberry.

So, let's pour four bowls and see what the fuss is all about.

The most obvious question I had, and I'm sure most of you have, is: How do Power O's taste? This could be the healthiest cereal on the planet, but if tastes disgusting or like cardboard no one will really care. In the end breakfast cereal is an experience that is part of our culture and, for many, an important way for to start their day. Taste matters. So, what's the verdict? Three of the four are not bad - actually taste reasonably well, especially considering their position as health food. Perhaps the biggest barrier for most people to try Power O's is psychological. If they don't know the cereals are made from beans they probably wouldn't notice anything unusual. There is one exception, however. The Original flavor is awful. On the front end it's just plain bland, and on the back end it leaves a taste of burnt milk. So, unless you want nothing but the benefits of beans in your diet avoid the base flavor. Chocolate, Honey and Strawberry, on the other hand, taste fine. Of course, there is nothing that sugar and flavorings cannot fix! The flavors and sweetness are not overpowering, but just enough to keep them pleasant. Overall these cereals are not going to win any food taste awards, but if you are intrigued by what these cereals have to offer you can be assured that three of them will work on your palate. My advice is stay away from the Original, unless you want to use it just for complementing other cereals.

Another question in my mind before trying Power O's was: What is the texture of cereals made from beans, and how will they stand up in milk? The fat little O's are fairly light, and lacking density they are easy chews, and in milk they quickly get soggy within just a few minutes. The Honey ones have the best texture out of the box, and the Chocolate and Strawberry formulas seem to hold out best in milk.

Let's get to the emotional side of eating Power O's. This is serious stuff, definitely not "kid's cereal", but there is a strong experiential aspect to them. Just the fact that you are eating cereal made from unusual ingredients is an adventure in itself. It says you are bold and willing to go outside the box (no pun intended!). Aside from that, the packaging is contemporary and contributes to a positive breakfast.

The whole reason for the "bean" thing is health. At the core of Love Grown Foods is a commitment to nutritious foods, and it extends to their oat-based cereals as well. Power O's, of course, with their beans are novel and speak nutrition loud and clear. The claims include high protein and fiber, low-fat, non-GMO and only natural flavors. The Original flavor offers the best nutrition profile. Unfortunately, however, the sugar content of the three better tasting varieties is higher than the optimal maximum 20% of weight.

If I could rate these cereals on innovation alone this would be a "five bowl" winner. In the real world, however, Power O's are unlikely to become mainstream champions anytime soon. Nevertheless, give Love Grown credit for trying to make something highly nutritious that meets the expectations of today's consumers. They haven't yet fully succeeded, but they are on the way. This could be the future of cereal. At minimum I'd encourage you to give them a try (but stay away form the Original)!
(Review protocol HERE)

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Black cereal

One of the ways that cereal companies can innovate is through the use of novel ingredients. has an interesting article citing research that suggests that cereal makers should consider including black grains into cereals for China, as they view such grains as healthier. This not only should be seen as a strategy for those wanting to break into China itself, but even as a way to reach out to ethnic Chinese in North America and other parts of the world.

Black could be a new color coming to your breakfast bowl soon? Would you eat black cereal?

Monday, June 02, 2014

Cereal turnaround?

Things have been looking bleak for the cereal industry. For example, last month Kellogg revealed sales decline, and many other industry signs are likewise not hopeful.

Yet, despite the negative trends, some are much more optimistic. Packaged Facts marketing research recently issued a report predicting a 10% growth in the U.S. breakfast cereal market between 2014 and 2018. Here a couple of noteworthy trends they noted:

First, there is growth in the sales of hot cereals, a trend previously noted here.

Second, much of the growth that will occur is likely to come from Hispanics, who generally consume much more cereal than non-Hispanics. We've already seen a few cereals targeted to Latinos. Expect more.

Packaged Facts also see positive signs in innovation and marketing from major companies. This, combined with some of the other innovations we are seeing from upstarts, might mean some brighter days ahead for the cereal industry.

We can only hope.